By Cecily Burt of the Oakland Tribune - 1.29.10
OAKLAND — Cyclists were thrilled when a new section of the Bay Trail was completed south of the High Street Bridge in Oakland four years ago, and more so when a paved road and parking lot off Tidewater Avenue was added to make the route even more accessible.
But the trail there has been closed since summer, and there are no plans to reopen it again until fall.
The East Bay Regional Park District is building a new $4 million Tidewater Aquatic Center boathouse complex adjacent to the trail along the Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline that will be used in part by the Oakland Strokes youth rowing club.
Because of the construction, the new access road to the trail and parking lot is completely blocked by a chain-link fence. Shelly Lewis, spokeswoman for the park district, said that heavy machinery and trucks are moving back and forth across the trail and that it would be dangerous to allow members of the public pass through there during construction.
The boathouse complex consists of two boathouse buildings, one of which will be used by the Oakland Strokes, an accessory building, and a dock. The complex will offer rowing, canoeing, kayaking and interpretive activities, and the facilities will include boat storage, boat launch, exercise area, restrooms, dressing rooms and meeting room. There will also be a security structure for park district staff.
All that is well and good, said Robert Raburn, executive director of the East
Bay Bicycle Coalition, but there ought to be a way to complete the building without blocking access to the path. His organization has worked closely with the park district on a number of bicycle transportation and trail projects, which makes it doubly annoying that he was not contacted before the closure to discuss possible alternatives, he said.
“Usually, someone will give us a call when a trail is going to be closed “… but that didn’t happen here,” he said. “It was a total stealth mode.”
The closure means that cyclists, joggers and walkers must instead navigate Lesser Street and Oakport Street before cutting back west between the PG&E and East Bay Municipal Utility District corporation yards to regain access to the Bay Trail near the Curt Flood soccer fields.
That stretch of Oakport has no sidewalks or paved shoulders, and the area is congested with commercial and industrial truck traffic.
Several days a week Dick Peterson, owner of Rock Transport on Coliseum Way does an 18-mile training loop from his office over to Harbor Bay and back to Oakland via the High Street Bridge. The detour is not only an inconvenience, it’s a hair-raising, dangerous journey.
“They should allow us to get off Oakport. It’s nerve-racking, and you fear for your life,” he said. “It’s extremely congested and dangerous for a little bicycle to navigate (past the trucks lined up in front of Gallagher and Burk’s hot plant), and having to go on Oakport, when two trucks pass there is no room for a bike. … We really miss our little connection.”
Raburn said the trail is a critical transportation link for bicycle commuters and he has asked the Bay Conservation and Development Commission to intervene and make sure the trail is reopened as soon as possible. At the very least in time for the opening this spring of a new bridge over the San Leandro Slough that marks the completion of a 13-mile section all the way from Hayward to the Fruitvale Bridge.
“It’s a very big deal for us,” he said. “It impacts commuters from Oakland and Alameda.”File attachment: Tidewater_HighStBr_sm.jpg Tidewater_closure_Nov2010.jpg