Creating Climate Resilient Parks

Thursday, Jun 30, 2022

As the effects of global climate change become more and more evident, the Park District is engaged in a variety of efforts to meet the resulting challenges to its parklands.

Three areas impacted by climate change include:
• Shoreline and marsh erosion with flooding from sea level rise
• Water quality issues
• Increasing wildfire risks

To address potential shoreline flooding and marsh erosion, the Park District now factors climate change into all policy decisions. Measures include upgrading flood protection structures and realigning shoreline park features where necessary.

An example is the Hayward Marsh Natural Habitat Restoration Project. The marsh provides critical habitat for the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and California clapper rail. Now underway, the project will preserve and expand the marsh, while realigning and improving the Bay Trail to increase the shoreline’s resilience to sea level rise.

Similarly, an upcoming project at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont will restore habitat including seasonal wetland, coastal prairie, riparian forest and oak savanna, while providing public access on about 205 additional acres of the park. The improvements will buffer urban areas to the east from sea level rise.

Two other projects that provide both wildlife habitat and a buffer to absorb rising water levels are the Dotson Family Marsh at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline in Richmond, and Bay Point Regional Shoreline in East Contra Costa County. Both water quality and swim beach availability are adversely affected by climate change, especially by prolonged drought. The swim beach at Shadow Cliffs in Pleasanton remained closed this season because of low water levels and other facilities are closed due to cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). Water quality is tested regularly from April through October to ensure conditions are safe.

The Park District also practices water conservation including drought-resistant landscaping and no-flush toilets where appropriate. Climate change, especially drought, results in ever increasing danger of catastrophic fires. Minimizing the risk of wildfire on its 125,000 acres of public lands is one of the District’s highest priorities.

The Park District maintains a fire department of some 16 full-time firefighters and about 34 on-call staff – District employees with other primary occupations, but who are also fully-trained firefighters available when needed. And working with federal and state agencies has enabled the District to receive significant funding for its forest and vegetation management programs. Techniques for fuel load reduction include grazing with goats, prescribed burns when weather permits, and removal of dead trees and other dry vegetation.

A recently discovered natural phenomenon – sudden die-off of many varieties of trees throughout California (see photo below) – has affected more than 1,500 acres. In the process of removing trees and brush to prevent catastrophic wildfires, District staff works to re-establish native, drought-tolerant plant varieties.

Tree Die-Off