Climate Change and Community Built into Dotson Family Marsh


View of San Pablo Bay from the newly dedicated Dotson Family Marsh (courtesy EBRPD)

After decades of efforts to protect a critical part of the Richmond shoreline, the East Bay Regional Park District recently celebrated the official dedication of the Dotson Family Marsh and Atlas Road Bridge at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline.

Formerly known as Breuner Marsh, the 150-acre site had long been slated for development, but the Dotson family and other residents of nearby Parchester Village passionately fought for its protection, restoration, and public access for years. “This was all possible because of decades of community engagement for environmental justice in an area impacted for so long by industrial uses,” said Park District General Manager Robert Doyle as quoted in Parks & Recreation Magazine’s February issue. “The Dotson family and other Richmond residents worked hard for this project, and we’re thrilled to honor them this way.”

The restoration project restores and enhances tidal and seasonal wetlands, including habitat for the endangered Ridgway’s rail, the California black rail, and the salt marsh harvest mouse. Dotson Family Marsh is one of the first restoration sites in the San Francisco Bay Area to incorporate anticipated sea level rise due to climate change. The graded site will allow the tidal marsh to migrate to higher elevations over the next 50 to 100 years, and public access has been located to avoid disruption in the future. This innovative planning advances Task 4.4 of the Estuary Blueprint:

Task 4.4: Include enhancement, restoration, or creation of transition zones in tidal restoration and multi-benefit climate adaptation projects where feasible.

The project fills a 1.5-mile gap in the San Francisco Bay Trail, advancing completion of Task 31.2 of the Estuary Blueprint, and is contiguous with the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. A raised boardwalk provides public access while also protecting sensitive wetland habitat. The spur trail that connects to the Bay Trail allows visitors to cross the tidal marsh and access an island lookout and fishing spit. These enhancements will benefit the local community, including residents of Parchester Village, with access to expanded open space.

Task 31.2: Add to the San Francisco Bay Trail, closing critical gaps in the main alignment (the “spine”) that links the shoreline of all nine Bay Area counties, while avoiding adverse effects on sensitive resources and wildlife.

“It’s very important to save areas like this,” said Whitney Dotson, a Parchester Village resident and leader in the fight to save the site. “We’re always thinking about habitat for species of animals, but also we have habitat needs ourselves. This is one of the places we can come and enjoy the openness of the place itself. And that’s very important for our psychological well-being to be able to have places that we can retreat to.”

Whitney Dotson speaking at the marsh dedication on April 22 (courtesy Josh Bradt, SFEP)
 

The project was funded by more than 10 agencies, including the East Bay Regional Park District and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and through local bond Measures CC and WW. For more on this project and the dedication ceremony, visit http://www.ebparks.org/atlas-dotson.

Written by Darcie Luce