Spanning over 1,800 acres, the Hayward Regional Shoreline is home to thousands of different species of birds, fish, plankton and mammals, and provides plenty of recreational and educational opportunities for the residents of the East Bay.
Coupled with the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center located on Breakwater Avenue, adjacent to the entrance of the San Mateo Bridge, the shoreline area has played host to large-scale restoration projects and has helped provide education to countless students and visitors about the muddy flats lining the Bay.
The East Bay Regional Park District and the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District share management of this expansive environment, which includes several miles of graveled Bay trail, winding from the Hayward shoreline all the way to the entrance of the San Leandro marina.
The interpretive center, a “seafood restaurant-looking” building sprinkled with bird droppings, is open throughout the week to schools and other educational groups of all ages, offering didactic, albeit muddy, fieldtrips. On the weekends, the center welcomes any visitors and holds programs for age groups young and old.
“We give significance to the insignificant; the seemingly insignificant,” said Adrienne DePonte, supervising naturalist at the interpretive center, explaining for many people, simply casting their eyes off to the right as they drive west over the San Mateo bridge is the only exposure they get to the shoreline habitat.
Ann Graham, one of the senior naturalists at the center, can be seen on any given weekend with the Nature Detectives, an interpretive program for three to five-year-old children.
“What color do you see inside there?” Graham asks a group of detectives huddled around her on the trail, pointing to the piece of animal scat she had just split in two pieces.
“Green! Green!” a chorus of young voices exclaimed, recognizing the animal who had left this is most likely an herbivore, bringing Graham’s lesson full-circle.
“I like that it’s hands on,” said Erin Morse, a Hayward resident who brought her three-year-old son Devon Richardson to the weekend program.
Bicyclists can be seen whizzing by the trails near the center, flanked on either side by a thick sea of the most prominent plant species in the marshes, pickleweed. The scarlet, goldenrod and varying greens of the salt-discharging plant leads the eye across the waters of the Bay to the backdrop looking toward San Francisco’s skyline.
The shoreline is home to over 124 species of birds, including the California clapper rail, plenty of egrets and least terns, some of which are endangered.
These birds use the San Francisco Bay as homes and as migratory routes throughout the winter months and find all the food they need buried in the moist, sentient mud.
It’s also home to the smallest butterfly in North America, the Western Pygmy Blue, with a wingspan of roughly half of an inch across, as well as the salt marsh harvest mouse.
“When we say interpretive center, we really mean that. We really translate this environment,” said DePonte, explaining the variety of species of plant and animal life makes for an abundance of “Ah-ha!” moments when visitors learn about what surrounds their communities.
“It’s one of the most productive habitats in the world,” says DePonte confidently, describing how just a handful of Bay mud can pack in over 40,000 species of plankton.
The marshlands, while extremely important to the animals who call it home and to visitors and enthusiasts who make use of its open spaces, may also provide another invaluable service; safety.
The marshlands, when properly restored, according to DePonte, have the ability to absorb a considerable quantity of water, which aids in erosion control of the shorelines around the East Bay. In addition, the Adapting to Rising Tides Project, which expects nearly 16 inches of sea level rise in the next several decades, is collaborating with municipalities and federal agencies to mitigate the impact of rising waters on local ecosystems and communities, and the marshlands will play a large role in those efforts going forward.
DePonte says raising awareness and spreading information about the value of the shoreline is where her focus is.
“The idea that it’s teeming with life, is not apparent, just at a glance,” she says. “Our number one job is to explain to people, this isn’t a wasteland.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 12:41 pm.