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October 4, 2005 > Shark Day 2005

Shark Day 2005

Pet a shark and see a ghost town

If you ever wanted to touch a real live shark and view a sinking ghost town you don't have to wait until Halloween or make a trip to Hollywood. As a matter of fact, you can view an actual sinking ghost town right here in the Bay Area on Shark Day, Saturday, Oct. 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Environmental Education Center, 1751 Grand Blvd. in Alviso/San Jose off Highway 237, organized by Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Shark Day is the kickoff event for National Wildlife Refuge Week. It is a celebration of sharks and other wildlife that live in and around San Francisco Bay.

Visitors will be able to pet live leopard sharks that the Marine Science Institute will bring from San Francisco Bay for a memorable up close and personal encounter. The sharks will be released back into the bay after the event.

The event offers numerous fun filled free activities for all ages - from guided walks to puppet shows. Visitors can get their hands dirty in the Mud Creature Lab, try their luck on the Path to Survival, win the opportunity to make a shark tooth necklace, create a 2006 fish print calendar to take home, and learn fascinating fish facts from shark researchers during a slide presentation.

A new feature this year will be free van tours around salt ponds to view wildlife, find out about the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project and get a glimpse of our local ghost town - Drawbridge.

We recently saw what forces of nature can do in a short period of time courtesy of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. With the sinking ghost town of Drawbridge in the South Bay, you can see what forces of nature can do over a long period of time.

Drawbridge sits on a small marshy island in the South Bay. It began in 1876 when James "Slippery Jim" Fair and Alfred "Hog" Davis saw the potential of connecting the Bay Area to Santa Cruz via railroad. From Newark, the rail would wend into the Byzantine waterways of the bay with intermediate stops at Alviso and San Jose on the way to Santa Cruz. When the plan went forward, a problem presented itself in the form of two navigable waterways - Mud Creek Slough and Coyote Creek Slough. By law, the waterways were required to remain open for shipping. The solution called for a drawbridge over each waterway, operated by a lone bridge tender. The speck of land between the two waterways, where the rail crossed, was Station Island. The bridge tender lived in a small cabin on Station Island - the first inhabitant of what was to be called Drawbridge.

People started coming to this area in 1876 for hunting and fishing. In 1887 the railroad officially named the stop Drawbridge. A sign was placed on the bridge tender's cabin/station - Drawbridge had been formally recognized. Nevertheless, it would never be incorporated, and would always depend on surrounding communities for services. In 1906, Drawbridge had grown to 79 cabins including private residences, duck clubs, and two hotels. By 1926, Drawbridge was in full bloom with approximately 90 cabins, and was visited by five passenger trains a day.

Soon after, the decline of Drawbridge began. By the end of the decade, excessive pumping of fresh water by surrounding communities had caused subsidence of the land and fouling of deep wells. As a result, Drawbridge began to sink. The railroad and cabins were in constant need of "boosting." In addition to land subsidence, raw sewage from San Jose was affecting the sloughs. Fish and fowl abandoned the marshes. In 1940, 50 cabins remained. By 1955, trains no longer stopped in Drawbridge on a regular basis. In 1967, Drawbridge consisted of 42 taxed residences and a population of 25. In 1976, there were 24 taxed residences and one resident - Charlie Luce. The last resident left Drawbridge in 1979.

Today Drawbridge is a ghost town. The train has not stopped there in decades. Pat Anthony, a historian and a volunteer at the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, used to lead tours across the Mud Creek Slough into Drawbridge. Pat has led Drawbridge tours for 16 years and has many tales to tell about Drawbridge and its inhabitants.

This will be the public's last chance in 2005 to view this slowly sinking ghost town. The Environmental Education Center offers only three minivan tours in the summer months to view this town from across Coyote Creek Slough. Laurie McEwen, Interpretive Specialist at SanFransisco Bay Wildlife Society, said, "On a clear day you can still see remains of about 15 cabins in varying states of decay. At this point though only roofs are visible." She continued, "Although people are disappointed they can no longer visit the sinking town, they are fascinated and delighted by the rich variety of wildlife seen on the way."

Laurie explained that it is illegal for people to go to the ghost town. Due to the increased railway traffic it has become a safety issue to walk on the railway track. If there is a train coming, these unauthorized trespassers have no choice but to jump in the marsh. If caught, trespassers will be issued tickets with fines up to $1,500.

More information about Shark Day and programs at the Visitor Center can be obtained at or by calling (510) 792-0222 or the Environmental Education Center at (408) 262-5513.

This event is sponsored by Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program, city of San Jose, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society.

Shark Day 2005

Saturday, October 8

11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Environmental Education Center

1751 Grand Blvd. Alviso

(510) 792-0222

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