Oakland Tribune

Group illuminates the waterfront
By Analee Allen

February 13, 2005 - OAKLAND -- WATERFRONT ACTION is the name of a group of local activists and shoreline "fans" who are dedicating themselves to highlighting Oakland and Alameda's relationship to San Francisco Bay.

The mission is to promote public access to the region's waterfront by holding frequent public meetings on planned improvements and new development projects. The goal is also to speak out at public forums, host a Web site and e-mail newsletter, and promote events designed "to showcase the beauty, accessibility and fun that our waterfront can provide," said executive director and organization founder Sandy Threlfall.

In keeping with Waterfront Action's lively agenda, the group recently hosted a kickoff kayak "race" to promote the "Year of the Estuary," a comprehensive calendar of events and activities relating to the East Bay's waterways.

"We invited the mayors of both Oakland and Alameda to get out on the water in the kayaks and have a go," said Threlfall. "Alameda's Beverly Johnson was a good sport and took us up on it."

Also participating was Alameda Councilmember Frank Mataresse, Oakland Councilmember Nancy Nadel, and Beverly Lane, president of the East Bay Regional Park District.

"I am really excited that Alameda and Oakland are starting to work together with respect to estuary issues," says Threlfall. "And looking at the estuary as a 'bridge' between the two cities rather than a barrier."

Some of the ongoing events highlighted in the calendar (which can be accessed at www.waterfrontaction.org) include cruises on the USS Potomac (offered on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays starting in April), the artisan marketplace and farmers market on Saturdays and Sundays at Jack London Square, and guided walking tours, sponsored by the Oakland Tours Program (May through October).

Coming up in February are bird-watching opportunities at Lake Merritt, bicycle trips sponsored by the Golden Gate Audubon Society, and wetlands planting workdays at the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, to name a few.

"Our plan is for organizations, large or small, to promote their events at no cost, using our calendar site. We will be updating the calendar periodically, as the year goes along. And we are grateful to our partners, the East Bay Regional Park District, the Port of Oakland, and sister groups such as 'Save the Bay,' and the Jack London Aquatic Center for helping us sponsor this," Threlfall added.

Threlfall, a 30-year Oakland resident, born in San Francisco and raised in San Jose, did not fully start to appreciate the estuary's opportunities until 10 years ago when, as a member of the local League of Women's Voters chapter, she signed up to participate in a league study group about the waterfront.

"We were particularly interested in public access to the water and when we embarked on the year-long study, I thought most likely the views at Jack London Square were the extent of 'public access.' Our study group members were amazed to learn how much more there was to know on that score," Threlfall said.

"Our study, titled 'The Waterfront: It touches the world. How does it touch Oakland?' was published in 1993 and immediately attracted considerable public attention. We continued to meet as a group, inviting representatives from the port, from like-minded organizations, and from developers with proposals seeking public comment," Threlfall said. "I guess you could say the league study was really the catalyst for all that has come along since then."

The full contents of that groundbreaking study are available on the Waterfront Action Web site and offer not only a concise yet comprehensive overview of waterfront history, but assessments of land use and economic development opportunities for the city and the port. It also includes a summary of the issues, along with implementation recommendations, particularly as increased levels of public access are concerned.

"We are looking forward to hosting our second annual 'Horace Carpentier' dinner in the spring," Threlfall said. "As Oakland history buffs well know, shrewd and feisty Horace single-handedly ruled the town and the waterfront in the early years, until the courts forced him to give up control."

For more information on Waterfront Action, or to learn where to pick up a copy of the calendar, visit www.waterfrontaction.org.


Group illuminates the waterfront