Norman La Force is an anti-access activist whose election to the board of directors would be a disservice to the popular, well-run East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD).
Residents of Ward 1 recently received a La Force campaign flyer touting his contributions to McLaughlin Eastshore State Park (MESP). You may love that park, but La Force hated it. If he had been on the EBRPD board in 2002, MESP would be very different today.
His 14-page complaint to California State Parks in late August 2002 said there was too much public access, too much parking, and too many facilities. He was bitter that Sierra Club’s restrictive vision had not been adopted, and said the planning process had failed the participants. But at least, he said, the Berkeley Meadow and Albany Bulb had been set aside for preservation.
The Berkeley Meadow, 72 acres of landfill that cost $6 million to transform into artificial wetlands, is now behind a chain-link fence with two fenced, token paths. Presumably, the Albany Bulb will be one day, too.
People can argue about whether “restoring” landfill along the crowded urban shoreline is the best use of scarce parkland and monies. The discussion has social justice implications: Residents of West Berkeley used to enjoy jogging, picnicking, and flying kites on those 72 acres. But you will not be having that discussion with Norman La Force.
The two extremes that MESP park planners considered for Eastshore State Park (ESP) 20 years ago were maximum conservation and maximum recreation. Under maximum conservation, kayaking, kiteboarding, and windsurfing were prohibited. The Albany Bulb and Albany Beach would have been off-limits. Few trails would have been allowed along the shoreline. There would be no off-leash dog walking on North Point Isabel, and the footbridge from one side of that park to the other would have been removed.
The plan that was eventually adopted set aside large areas for habitat, including the Albany Mudflats Ecological Reserve, Emeryville Crescent, Hoffman Marsh, and Berkeley Meadow. It just didn’t set aside everything.
ESP planners rejected the maximum conservation option, saying it would allow the public to observe the park but not actually experience it. La Force responded furiously (page 103). That was a value judgment on the part of the park planners, he said. Observation is an experience, he said.
He complained that the planners should at least have adopted the (slightly less draconian) plan put forward by Sierra Club, Citizens for East Shore Parks, and others. (That plan, too, would have restricted water access and reduced longstanding off-leash recreation at Point Isabel/North Point Isabel from about 50 acres to 23 acres.)
La Force declared that the final, compromise plan “gives something to everyone but pleases no one, and cannot be justified by policies or the law.” That…
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