An unidentified set of orange floating arches anchored in the middle of the North Basin has puzzled Park visitors since Saturday, February 10, when a motorboat based in the Berkeley Marina towed it into position. The person responsible for the inflatable plastic vessel, which looks to be at least 50 feet long and about 12 feet wide, is Elise Brewster, a Berkeley artist and self-described boatwright. According to Brewster, the device was initially berthed in the Berkeley Marina but was evicted, for reasons Brewster declined to elaborate.
The North Basin — the body of water between the Berkeley mainland and Cesar Chavez Park — is part of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. The vessel is far larger than Park regulations permit within Park boundaries. In addition, the presence of the vessel at this time violates the recommendations of a comprehensive study of North Basin birds barring any vessels, even kayaks, in the North Basin during the peak migratory bird gathering season from October to April.
Brewster, apparently in an effort to give her project a green cover, claims that her oversized plastic pool toy is part of an aquatic permaculture project run by the Climate Foundation of Woods Hole, MA. This group is working on a half-mile-square metal grid to be suspended eighty feet under the water surface as an anchor to grow kelp, in combination with a deep-water suction pump invented by its founder, engineer Brian Von Herzen. However, nothing in Von Herzen’s web presentations remotely resembles Brewster’s orange arches. The kelp grid is planned for installation in open waters off Bali and/or Indonesia. The North Basin is far too shallow to grow kelp. A plastic inflatable device that loses air pressure overnight, as this one has done repeatedly since being anchored in the North Basin, is unlikely to survive long in the open ocean. Brewster has come up blank in response to repeated requests for some evidence of her connection with the Climate Foundation. Emails to Von Herzen and to the Climate Foundation requesting confirmation of their sponsorship of Brewster’s device have remained unanswered.
Whether the inflated orange arches are part of a foundation project or not, the vessel has no business being anchored in the middle of a park in a sensitive habitat during peak migratory bird season. The North Basin is not a parking lot for vessels evicted from the Berkeley Marina. The South Sailing Basin, which has frequent small boat traffic, would appear the more appropriate storage site. The orange arches need to be gone from the view of the Park’s human and feathered visitors, immediately if not sooner.