That began to change a couple of years ago when the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) opened up a park site off of Big Break Road. So far, the park’s amenities are rather basic: a parking lot, restroom, trail and pier.
All of that is about to change, too. A year from now the currently threadbare site is planned to feature a children’s playground where kids can pretend to be junior archeologists, a large relief map of the Delta, kayaking tours, picnic tables with barbecues and an amphitheater where a park interpreter will discuss nature against the backdrop of the Delta.
With the aid of nearly $2 million in state government grants, the park district plans to seek approval from Oakley’s city government next month for the Delta Discovery Experience. The district hopes to start construction in June and open the new facilities to the public in early 2010, according to Diane Althoff, EBRPD chief of design and construction.
“The Delta Discovery Experience is really an outdoor education and interpretive-type facility,” she said. “The outdoor amphitheater is inset into the Delta edge there, so that you can look right out across the water as you have your interpretive program.”
It remains to be determined whether the district will also provide concerts at the scenic, 150-seat site, similar to the concerts the park district provides at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in the summer.
Although there will be kayak launching, the kayak will not be available for rental for general public use; only for tours led by the park’s interpretive staff.
The children’s playground will be fun but also educational. “You will be digging through the sand and discovering a fossil or element that’s fixed underneath the sand that you can cover and uncover,” said Althoff.
Visitors will need to walk the quarter-mile trail from the parking lot to get to the picnic facilities near the water or to launch their own kayak, because parking near the water will be available only for those with disabilities.
The Delta map will be a main feature in the plaza area on a stand a little lower than waist-high, showing in relief the source of the water from the Sierra down through various rivers to the Delta.
Also planned are low seating walls adorned with murals or inset tiles, providing some artistic elements to the park.
Depending on the availability of funding, some of the park’s facilities and amenities might not be built right away, but phased in. Park officials are still working out the details.
Also on the district’s drawing board for the park is the Delta Science Center. Planned to be built sometime next year near the existing parking lot, the center is funded with the recently approved Measure WW bond revenue.
“That will be a place for indoor interpretive programming or to orient before going out to the Delta with a walk-and-talk with the interpreter,” said Althoff. “There might be staff offices for preparation of the programs. It’s a little more modest in size than we originally hoped.”
The construction depends on when the bonds are sold to raise the construction funds and what priority the park district board gives to the project. “Our hope is that will be a high-priority project for the board,” said Althoff. “That will be resolved in their upcoming workshops.”
In other Delta educational/recreational developments, the Discover the Delta Information Center is being planned at the conjunction of highways 12 and 160. And an East County organization called the Delta Science Center has been helping sponsor Delta boat cruises for students and provides educational Delta calendars and puzzles for classrooms.