Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline - An Old Favorite With a New Twist

It's been a couple of years since my first visit to Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro. This shoreline park is mostly paved, and with most bayside parks offers opportunities for birders, hikers, bicyclists or Bay Trail fans. I qualify for 3 of 4 on that list. As always during a heat wave in my home burg of Livermore, we head to the Bay to catch a cool breeze and to take in another piece of the restoration of San Francisco Bay. This is a favorite of mine.

Driving to the park is pretty simple - follow the signs from 880 to Marina Blvd West and a couple of turns later you're Neptune Drive, where we'll park. Oyster Bay was once "The Dump", as we used to call it in the 60's, where we'd haul stuff we no longer wanted to quietly decompose. Much of the Bay's shoreline was built this way, from Berkeley through Oakland and San Leandro - dump after dump, old tires, broken lawn mowers, green waste as well as other, less environmentally friendly kinds of spoils. It wasn't pretty, nor was it conducive to wildlife habitat, which was apparent back then.

These days, old landfills are being cleaned up and parks created. Oyster Bay is a shining example of what can rise from rubble and trash. I parked on Neptune Drive and took a turn south on the San Francisco Bay Trail. The Bay Trail follows the shoreline south for a short distance, then turns north on its way to Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and beyond. The trail is paved and has a slight incline near the start, but once on the Bay side the route flattens and becomes refreshing. The Bay wind is ubiquitous, so those of us from the inland cities can revel in it during our mid - summer version of Dante's Inferno.

I stopped frequently along the water's edge to see what feathered or furry friends were paying attention. I let my mind wander until I began short bits of poetry with things like "whilst hanging out with all the gulls and buoys by the Bay€¦" I figured that was probably enough of allowing my mind to wander. So much for my future as a poet! I moved on, noting a pair of Marbled Godwits prowling the mud for goodies. Hummingbirds were in abundance on the hill behind me - watching them dart through the trees made it difficult to believe this park has its history in landfill. Talk about a reclamation project!

Cruising slowly along the shore I made it to the north side of the park. I got excited by the sight of Oyster Bay's newest feature, the Bill Lockyer Bridge, which spans a tidal channel that provides habitat for herons, egrets, smaller wading birds and a variety of small mammals. This bridge opened just a few weeks ago, and allows an intrepid hiker or biker to continue north along the Bay Trail from Oyster Bay. I had planned just a short visit to the park this day; I will be out again soon, however, to find out how long it would take me to get to, oh, Richmond. The Bay Trail is going to be something once completed.

There is an interesting sculpture at Oyster Bay, a running series of metal pipes that seem to work quite well with the rolling, breezy, temperate nature of the setting. I expected it to look out of place, but instead was struck with the way it blends. Sitting on top of one of the berms near the sculpture, I watched a Black Shouldered Kite cruise through, stopping momentarily to hover overhead, looking for fast food, before I moved on.

I actually made two trips around on the paved trail, so I could go over the Lockyer Bridge a few times. I sat mid span to watch a pair of Greater Egrets fish, and they were having a field day with some kind of unfortunate fry. A few Canada Geese swam up the channel, quietly murmuring to each other, probably trash talking to the gulls. The bridge is a wonderful addition, enhancing this park tremendously. It's a huge plus to be able to get on the trail, wander north as far as you wish and still have a rather easy, sedate and scenic stroll or roll back to the car. All this, and wildlife, too - a fine place for a parks enthusiast.

A bonus of the late rains were late wildflowers at various places along the walk. While not an earth shattering array, the spots of color seem to signal a phoenix - like rise of this park from the ashes of the old dump. There are still changes and pieces being added to Oyster Bay. Picnic tables are up in several locations. Dirt trails connecting with the main, paved path are abundant, and they wind up and down the rolling mounds that are central to the place. More trails equals more reasons to return, right?

Oyster Bay is a near perfect bayside locale for observing the restoration of San Francisco Bay come to fruition before our eyes. Make it a point some summer afternoon to visit. Bring lunch, catch a breeze, share some time watching the birds. Most of all, enjoy the work of several groups dedicated to restoring San Francisco Bay and its habitats. Oh, yeah - if you see a guy in a yellow wheelchair gawking at a Red Shouldered Hawk while sitting in the Bay breeze, please stop by and say hello.