East Bay conservationists and political leaders are celebrating a crowning recognition for 95-year-old Sylvia McLaughlin of Berkeley, co-founder of Save the Bay, a pivotal group that stopped infill of the Bay and helped block development on much of the shoreline.
The state Parks and Recreation Commission Friday voted to rename Eastshore State Park in her honor, making it McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. The action capped a park-renaming appeal to the commission in February 2011 and was led by Citizens for East Shore Parks.
It also recognized the profound impact of the Save the Bay group, formed by McLaughlin and two other women in 1961 in response to a City of Berkeley plan to double the city's size and tax base by filling in 2,000 acres of the Bay. The other two co-founders, now both deceased, were Kay Kerr of El Cerrito (who was married to UC President Clark Kerr), and Esther Gulick of Berkeley.
Their "Save the Bay" movement was prompted also by an Army Corps of Engineers' map that had been printed in the Oakland Tribune showing that San Francisco Bay could end up being a narrow shipping channel by the year 2020 because of planned Bay fill and by the prospect of more than three dozen burning garbage dumps around the shoreline.
"Sylvia McLaughlin has been a force of nature at the very core of protecting our San Francisco Bay over the last 40 years,” state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said in a statement Wednesday. “Adding her name to East Shore State Park will remind future generations of not only Sylvia, but all of the advocates who fought to protect the Bay and to establish this wonderful state park.”
Skinner – whose district includes El Cerrito, Berkeley and Albany – sponsored a resolution, ACR 55, in support of renaming the park after McLaughlin. It was adopted by the state legislature in August last year.
The renaming was supported by a large number of organizations and agencies, including the East Bay Regional Park District, which manages the park for the state. The City of El Cerrito voted 3-1 on May 1 to endorse naming the park in McLaughlin's honor.
The 1,854-acre park was established in 2002 and stretches 8.5 miles along the shoreline from the Bay Bridge to Richmond. It is not continuous, however, but consists of five parcels, including the Emeryville cresent, the Brickyard area and Berkeley Meadow in Berkeley, much of the Albany shoreline and much of Point Isabel in Richmond. A park map can be found on one of the photos accompanying this article.
"It is widely recognized that the existence of Eastshore State Park is the result of decades of grassroots environmental activism by San Francisco Bay Area citizens fighting to halt the filling of the bay," according to the staff report prepared for the state Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Friday. "One of the most influential organizations involved in the creation of Eastshore State Park is Citizens for East Shore Parks, cofounded by Sylvia McLaughlin in 1985."
The report is attached to this article. Also attached is list of McLaughlin's accompishments provided by Citizens for East Shore Parks.
A column by the group's director, Patricia Vaughan Jones, about renaming the park was published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on Sept. 21.