In their July 16, 2013 meeting, the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors unanimously approved (7-0) the Park District's 2013 Master Plan. The Board's approval was the last step in a lengthy public process to update the policy document that guides the District in future expansion of parks, trails, and services.
The East Bay Regional Park District held six public meetings in September and October 2012 to gather public comment to guide in updating our Master Plan, the policy document that guides the District in future expansion of parks, trails, and services, defines our vision and mission, and sets priorities for the next decade. Public comments were considered by staff in the preparation of the Master Plan final draft and were addressed in the "Response to Comments" document appended to the Master Plan final draft.
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The East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors thanks all those participants who took our online survey during February and March. The survey closed March 31, 2011, and we received an impressive 6,291 responses. These responses have been tabulated and will help us plan for the future of our Regional Parks as we update our Master Plan.
Download: 2011 Master Plan Survey Results [PDF]
The Master Plan defines the vision and the mission of the East Bay Regional Park District and sets priorities for the future. It explains the District's multi-faceted responsibilities and provides policies and guidelines for achieving the highest standards of service in resource conservation, management, interpretation, public access and recreation. The Master Plan is designed to maintain a careful balance between the need to protect and conserve resources and the recreational use of parklands for all to enjoy now and in the future. It was prepared with the active participation of the District's citizen-based Park Advisory Committee and with extensive review and comment from the community. The District's first master plan was approved in 1973. The Master Plan is revised and updated periodically to reflect new circumstances to which the District must respond.
The Mission statement defines the essential role of the District:
The East Bay Regional Parks preserves a rich heritage of natural and cultural resources and provides open space, parks, trails, safe and healthful recreation and environmental education. An environmental ethic guides the District in all of its activities.
The Vision statement sets the direction, values and objectives of the District:
The District envisions an extraordinary and well-managed system of open space parkland in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which will forever provide the opportunity for a growing and diverse community to experience nature nearby.
To achieve its vision in the following ways:
The first Regional Parks were established on watershed land owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). In 1928, when EBMUD declared surplus some 10,000 acres of former watershed lands in the East Bay hills, community leaders seized this opportunity to preserve open space lands for public recreational use. Although there was open space all around, these concerned citizens realized that it would have to be formally set aside as parkland in order to preserve the region's natural beauty for present and future inhabitants to enjoy. Their efforts led to legislation authorizing the establishment of a regional park district and a board to govern it. On November 6, 1934, voters approved the East Bay Regional Park District by a margin of greater than two to one. The District's subsequent history has been one of increased land stewardship and programmatic responsibilities. The Hayward area joined the District in 1956. Fremont voters approved annexation in 1958. Most of Contra Costa County joined the District in 1964, the Pleasanton area in 1966, East Contra Costa in 1981 and finally the Livermore area in 1992, resulting in the full two-county jurisdiction.
Today, because of continued urbanization, the need for a regional system of publicly owned open space areas, recreational facilities and trails is perhaps even greater than it was when the District was originally established. And, as in 1934, the times are uncertain. Like other public agencies, the District continually faces the potential loss of essential revenues, while the demand for recreational areas, facilities, programs and services continues to grow. Economic uncertainty, population growth, the increased ethnic and cultural diversity of the East Bay, improved scientific knowledge in natural and cultural resource management, and land use changes that could create new Regional Parks in urban areas are among the key challenges that will shape the East Bay Regional Park District of the future.
The Master Plan sets the following priorities:
The natural and cultural resources of the East Bay Regional Park District-whether a rare plant or animal, a valley grassland or chaparral-covered slope, an ancient petroglyph or bedrock mortar, a panoramic vista or a secluded dell-are all a public treasure. The Master Plan outlines policies for managing these resources wisely.
Most District lands are wildlands-natural areas that provide watershed, open space, recreation and habitat for plants and animals. The goal of our wildland management program is to conserve and enhance important resources (soil, vegetation, wildlife and water) to ensure that natural parkland ecosystems are maintained in a healthy and productive condition.
All District vegetation management activities are designed to conserve, enhance and restore natural plant communities; to preserve and protect populations of rare, threatened, endangered and sensitive plant species and their habitats; and, where possible, to protect the variety of organisms in a specific geographical region and to achieve a high representation of native plants and animals. The diverse assortment of birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates that dwell in the Regional Parks is an integral part of the ecology of the San Francisco Bay Area and an aesthetic natural feature of the parks that visitors greatly enjoy. The District is responsible for protecting all wildlife in the parks, for managing non-native and feral animals to minimize conflicts with native wildlife and for cooperating with other land managers, both public and private, to address wildlife management issues on a regional scale.
The District's ten freshwater lakes, numerous ponds and streams and miles of Bay and Delta shoreline abound with fish and amphibians. The District conserves, enhances and restores native fish and amphibian populations; develops aquatic facilities; and manages fisheries in cooperation with the State Department of Fish and Game to improve habitats and provide for recreational angling. The District is a national leader in the use of controlled grazing, prescribed burning and natural methods for controlling invasive flora and fauna (integrated pest management). Our responsibilities for land and water management run the gamut from monitoring water quality in the parks to preserving wetlands to minimizing soil erosion. We also protect paleontological, cultural and historical resources.
Wherever you live in the East Bay, you can find a Regional Park within 30 minutes of your home. We encourage use of the Regional Park system by providing parking facilities and trail heads at convenient locations and by encouraging and supporting public transportation.
The Master Plan underscores the District's high emphasis on recreational and interpretive programs that improve use of the park system and serve people of all ages, cultural backgrounds and abilities. Over time, this effort will increase public services while expanding public understanding of the important role that open space resources play in sustaining the quality of life for all Bay Area residents.
To achieve our vision and mission, we must rely on broad public involvement and support, a sound financial base, skilled employees and dedicated friends and associates. The Master Plan discusses these critical human and financial resources and sets forth policies intended to build a strong foundation for the future.
Under the Master Plan, we will continue to encourage public participation in our activities and will broaden our outreach efforts. We will maintain a staff of highly motivated and skilled public employees; continue to seek volunteers to support our activities and programs; expand opportunities for interns; and use concessionaires to augment services to the public. Concessionaires will be required to provide high quality service, maintain facilities, uphold environmental standards and park values consistent with our mission and provide revenue.
The District's major source of financial support is property tax revenues. Measure AA-the Regional Open Space, Wildlife, Shoreline and Park Bond Act passed by District voters in 1988 (and now Measure WW since 2008)-has provided funding to round out and help complete a major portion of the District's system of parks, regional trails and essential development projects that were envisioned in the District Master Plan. Measure AA (and Measure WW) has provided a remarkable opportunity to add a variety of new parks, trails and facilities to the East Bay Regional Park District. Unfortunately, operating revenues have not kept pace with acquisitions. We deploy staff strategically and have introduced new technological tools to stretch operating funds as much as possible; however, funding the operation and staffing of a growing park system remains a challenge. We will seek to protect and augment diversified, equitable, long-term funding sources that support our strategic goals and will manage within these resources to assure the District's continuing sound financial operation. To help secure the future of the District, we will continue our partnership with the Regional Parks Foundation, a separate nonprofit corporation that raises funds to support the District.
The Master Plan represents the East Bay Regional Park District's dedication to fulfilling the vision of the public spirited citizens and elected officials who accurately foresaw the great potential of this region and who had the courage and the will to advocate creating a park system for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. The plan acknowledges the continuing commitment of the citizens, elected officials and staff whose dedicated efforts have expanded the District from the first four parks established in 1934 and it will guide the District as it responds to the challenges ahead. The chief vehicle for translating the Master Plan into action is the District's annual budget. The District evaluates and prioritizes all proposed services each year in the course of preparing the annual budget, in keeping with the goals of the Master Plan. The preparation of the budget provides an on-going opportunity for District residents to help shape the future of the Regional Parks by participating in public forums and providing comment.
The Board of Directors and the staff of the East Bay Regional Park District are committed to working day by day, year by year, to achieve the goals of the Master Plan. We welcome the involvement of all District residents in this important endeavor.
The major areas of growth have included completing the Measure AA Bond Program (the 1988 Regional Park and Trail Bond Act) throughout the two-county area and establishing a system of regional trails and parks in eastern Alameda County. Measure AA funds were used to purchase expansions to existing and new parks, obtain trail rights-of-way, develop extensions of the regional trail system and complete $56 million in local park and recreation facilities.
During the next decade, the Park District expects to face rapid urbanization of the East Bay which severely limits the opportunities for new parkland acquisition. Other significant challenges include: population growth of the Bay Area, increase in cultural and ethnic diversity, emphasis on the creation of denser and more sustainable residential development, and closure and conversion of military bases. The proposed updated map reflects the current situation and will help guide the District in the acquisition of new parklands and trails over the next ten years. An extension of the 1988 Regional Park and Trail bond act was passed by the voters in November 2008 election to support these future parklands.
In developing the 2007 Master Plan Map, the District used the latest in Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. Working with data from a recent survey of East Bay residents, gaps were identified in the current system of regional parks,
open space areas and trails serving existing and expanding East bay communities. The new map was created to address these gaps along with identifying important natural resources that need protection.
The 2007 Master Plan Map encompasses creating new regional trails and expanding the East Bay Regional Park District in the following areas (continued from 1997 Map): Alameda Shoreline (Naval Air Station), Bethany Reservoir, Cedar
Mountain, Delta Access, Delta Recreation, Dublin Hills Open Space, Duarte Canyon, North Richmond Wetlands, Pittsburg-Antioch Shoreline, Point Edith Wetlands and Point Molate, and (additions to 2007 Draft map): Altamont/Tesla, Byron Vernal pools, Concord Naval Weapons Station, Doolan Canyon, Deer Valley, Oakland Shoreline, Rancho Pinole.
At its November 6, 2007 public hearing, the Board of Directors adopted these map additions, and the District will began working on updating the written policy portion of the Master Plan in 2010. Once completed, the new Master will provide the policies and guidelines to achieve the highest standards in resource conservation, management, interpretation, public access and recreation.