Brickyard Cove, the newest park in the Berkeley Marina, opened this weekend. Formerly a dump primarily for construction and demolition debris, the new park is part of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park complex and is managed by the East Bay Regional Park District. I was among the hundreds of park visitors who took in the new facility on Sunday morning. The entrance is located off the parking lot behind the Seabreeze Market at the corner of University Avenue and the west frontage road.
Prominent next to the parking lot is the restroom building. The structure has four unisex units, each with a flush toilet (Yes!), sink, and baby changing station. The units were spectacularly clean. I spoke with a Park District Employee with experience at other local park restrooms who indicated that these units would be shut down at night to discourage most types of vandalism. Parks staff know that keeping restrooms clean requires regular maintenance and are prepared to do it. These restrooms are a vast improvement over the campground style no-flush “babydrop” units found at the Albany Bulb and on the north end of the Pt Isabel dog area, not to mention the disgusting porta-potties that the City of Berkeley offers visitors from all over the world in Cesar Chavez Park.
Several years of earthmoving and grading went into shaping the new Brickyard. I spent many an hour in the old Brickyard with its hilly mounds and dense shrubbery, and I found the new layout almost unrecognizable. The cove with its gravelly beach is still there, as is the finger of land pointing south, and the shoreline with the Strawberry Creek outfall, but it’s all been leveled and cleaned up. The trails in the immediate area of the parking lot and restroom are paved. In the rest of the area, hard-packed dirt/gravel paths make for easy walking and biking, at least in dry weather. Wheelchair users will get by on the dirt with effort and some discomfort.
Much work went into seeding the flatlands and gentle slopes with native grasses. This greenery looked well established in the area around the parking lot but seemed a bit sketchy further out. I saw one lone windblown California Poppy on the west bank. Scattered stands of last year’s fennel stood along the cove. French Broom thrived back of the beach and in some other spots. Much work had gone into cutting down Pampas Grass but more remained to be done. I saw a lovely Echium (Pride of Madeira) on the southern tip of the finger, some Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber) on the east shore of the cove, and some pink Ice Plant (? Delosperma sp.) and a clump of African Flag (Chasmanthe florabunda) along the west bank. Mitigating some of these invasives is probably on the district’s To Do list.
Several dozen birds, mostly Scaup, rested on the waters of the southside cove, which offers some shelter from the westerlies. The new park is also a good observation point for the mixed assembly of shorebirds that use the mud flats by the Strawberry Creek outflow. I saw a pair of Mallards on the lawn by the restroom building. I did not see any Ground Squirrels, which doesn’t mean they weren’t there.
The new signage gets high marks. The format is white lettering on a brown background, placed about chest high. This blends well with a park atmosphere, in contrast to the signs in Chavez Park, which are the same as on streets and sidewalks, and not park-like. Signs make it clear that dogs must be on leash. Alcohol, smoking, and drones are prohibited. (There is no drone bar in Chavez Park.) My only quibble with the signs in Brickyard Cove has to do with the info sign about Burrowing Owls, which says that “Owls are often seen in flocks, foraging for seeds and insects … ” I wish they were seen in flocks. And they aren’t known to eat seeds; they’re carnivores. But that’s forgivable.
Also of note is the presence of a pair of EV charging stations in the parking lot. These are part of the widespread Chargepoint chain. Numerous waste containers line the paths. All are covered; the open-top barrels that invite crows and squirrels, so widespread in Chavez Park, are absent here.
The East Bay Regional Park District knows how to put a park together. Excellent restroom, good signage, proper waste containers, EV charging, and a smooth network of paths in a scenic setting near urban arteries make for a most welcome addition to our local park offerings. The City of Berkeley Parks Department could learn a few things from paying the Brickyard Cove a visit.