Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

October 4, 2005 > It's a quarry, it's a's a park!

It's a quarry, it's a's a park!

East Bay Regional Park District prepares for a new park

The dusty and barren landscape is littered with heavy equipment and mounds of rock waiting to be crushed for roadbeds and asphalt. Within the acreage of this desolate landscape lies a huge hole - dug over decades - that descends to almost 300 feet below sea level, the lowest point in the continental United States. This isn't Badwater in Death Valley, often touted as lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at 282' below sea level. Instead, the site lies at the Dumbarton Quarry, located at the end of Quarry Road off Paseo Padre Parkway, northwest of Highway 84 as it prepares to leave Fremont and cross the southern portion of San Francisco Bay.

A small group of officials and citizens attending a recent meeting (September 28) of the Liaison Committee of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and the City of Fremont surveyed the scene in amazement as EBRPD officials described the transition of this desolate land into a new park. Currently known by its temporary title of Dumbarton Quarry Park, this new facility will nestle next to Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. TCV asked Mike Anderson, Assistant General Manager of Planning, Stewardship, Design and Construction for EBRPD about the timing, design and construction of the new park.

TCV: How did this park come about?

Anderson: Ten years ago, the operators of the quarry, DeSilva Gates, which uses the crushed rock from this site in its grading and paving operations, applied to the city of Fremont to extend their quarry operation. The development of this park was a condition of approval for that extension. The new park was to be developed and constructed by DeSilva Gates and turned over to EBRPD to own and operate - a turnkey operation.

The EBRPD will control the design and development although DeSilva Gates or their contractors will actually build the park. We will be inspecting and approving the work, making sure it complies with the plans and specifications. EBRPD is responsible for confirming the work is done correctly as we do with all our park projects.

TCV: Are there limits to the design?

Anderson: We have taken what was appended to the extension agreement and refined it. It is essentially the same plan that had a public process associated with it. At this point our sense is that we will follow the public input, fill in the blanks and get this built.

TCV: What are the anticipated uses of the new park?

Anderson: The general uses will be day picnics, play in the turf area, boating - we have not defined this although I imagine it will be restricted to sail and paddle boating - fishing, swimming in a controlled shallow lagoon area and a water play area. We also plan to have a museum/education component that will address the history of the site and link to the natural environments to the north (Coyote Hills) and south (Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge). There are plans for overnight camping - primitive to recreational vehicle set-ups. Bike paths will link with Coyote Hills, the Bay Trail and the Alameda Trail.

The 25 acre (surface area) lake will probably be stocked with trout. We are currently at a formative stage of this project, but an interesting idea being considered is to fill the lower portions of the quarry with salt water and the upper 100 feet with fresh water. It is thought that the lower two thirds of quarry water will not move and, if salt water, remain separate from fresh water floating above it. The upper 40 or 50 feet of the lake will have the right temperature and oxygen level for fish to thrive. We will probably enhance the fish habitat with surplus Christmas Trees chained below the water line similar to what is done at Quarry Lakes. The upper 100 feet will be aerated using electric or solar power. The water temperature should be cool enough for trout.

TCV: How many campsites will be at this park?

Anderson: About 150 campsites. We do not yet have a sense of the mix of camping types, but we think it will be a good place for people to spend a few days, take a trip over the wildlife refuge or walk over to Coyote Hills and experience all the ecological resources in the area. Camping is designed for short-term stays.

TCV: What is the cost of this park to EBRPD?

Anderson: The park will be created at no cost to EBRPD or the public. Operations will be at our expense when it is handed to us as a completed project. We want to make sure the design is done well with a nice balance of attributes using good materials so the infrastructure is sound. It is our job to take care of the property once it is handed over to us.

TCV: When will the mining operation stop?

Anderson: Late 2007. We will then concentrate on putting the park in place. Since this will be a private construction process, many of the public processes associated with an EBRPD project are avoided. I am hoping it will not take too long, but we are still early in the process. I am not yet aware of who will be contracted to build the facility.

TCV: Will the new park be open year round?

Anderson: Yes.

TCV: Will there be a fee to enter the park?

Anderson: We have not determined these operational details yet, but this park will probably follow the pattern of other EBRPD parks including a parking fee and, if spending the night, a camping fee. We normally require a day fishing permit along with a fishing license [ages 16 and above]. These are nominal costs. There is no entrance fee for those walking to the park.

TCV: What makes this park so unusual?

Anderson: Because of its location and the intensity of its development, it is unusual. This is a reclamation project. There is nothing at this location but a pile of rock. This presents a challenge and an opportunity. The first thing we want to do is protect the natural cultural resources on the site. Most of our sites are open spaces where there is a resident flora and fauna. In this case, the area is pretty much down to rock. This allows some freedom to rebuild the environment. It becomes a developable spot for intense use that can link to our typical experiences such as Coyote Hills and the refuge to the south. It is a unique experience for us where we can rebuild from the rock up. Camping along the bay will be another unique amenity of this park.

TCV: How are relations with DeSilva Gates?

Anderson: They are very good. In fact, they seem to be excited about the transformation. It is a bit of a legacy from DeSilva Gates where they can leave this site in a condition where people can enjoy it.

TCV: Are you actively working on this project at this time?

Anderson: Yes. We are now trying to understand how to get water to the site both to fill the mine and for the park in general. Also, we are studying the geologic conditions since there is a fair amount of grading that needs to take place to make it safe and create the park contours. It will not seem like anything is happening if you are standing on the outside watching the site, but there is a lot of investigation going on to change this area from an old quarry to a park with plants and trees.

TCV: How can people follow the progress of this park?

Anderson: We are redoing our website and may include updates, but for now, people can contact me and I will be happy to let them know what is going on. (Mike Anderson - (510) 544-2303).

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