“It has been a long time coming,” said Mayor Carol Rios. “We have been hearing about this when we became a city, which is 10 years. I’m absolutely excited about it.”
The 4.5-acre Delta Discovery Experience is scheduled to begin construction in June and open early next year. Next to the fishing pier on the park site near the end of Big Break Road, it will include an amphitheater, children’s play area, picnic barbecue areas, a large Delta relief map, kayak launching area, fish cleaning station, drinking fountain and restroom.
“This is a project that has been long in the waiting, and we are very glad that it’s finally coming forth and are looking forward to the completion of the entire park,” said Councilman Kevin Romick. “The times I’ve been down there walking, it’s always been a great place to go to. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of what’s out there.”
The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is building the park with the aid of nearly $2 million in state government grants. A Delta Science Center building is planned to be constructed next year next to the parking lot, funded by the Measure WW bond approved in November.
While most of the discussion at the March 24 meeting was upbeat, two residents raised concerns. Tom Lindemuth, a retired teacher who takes students on kayaking trips to learn about the Delta ecosystem, is concerned that he will no longer be able to drive his kayak down to the water’s edge for launching.
Access to the area, located about a quarter-mile from the parking lot, will be limited to bicyclists and pedestrians (although park staff and the disabled will be allowed to drive in).
“Shlepping a 60-to-80-pound canoe from the parking lot to the kayak ramp is difficult at best,” said Lindemuth. “(Currently) It’s easy if the (park) caretakers are there; we can drive down and drop off the kayaks, and it’s no sweat. But with the (new) plan, that doesn’t look possible at all.”
Diane Althoff, EBRPD chief of design and construction, responded that while vehicles will be banned in the current phase of the park construction, there is a possibility that they will be allowed in a future phase if a separate bridge is built for them.
Rios encouraged park district officials to set up a permit system that will allow school groups to have vehicle access for kayak drop-off. “Sparking the interest of kids in science is amazing, and we want to encourage that,” she said.
The other concern was raised by Debbie Russo, whose backyard on Stonegate Circle faces the bridge on the park trail. She said that since the park opened, she has had to put up with increased foot traffic, noise, gunfire, trash and dogs that are off their leash and barking at her dog.
“We were initially told by East Bay regional parks that this (trail) would be regularly policed,” she said. “I’ve never seen anyone police the trail or the bridge area, and I walk that area every single day. It’s definitely a situation that is becoming increasingly bad with the continued development of the science center.”
Russo also said that $28,000 of damage was done to her pool and concrete by the pile-driving equipment used to construct the bridge. She said that a park official had told her she would be compensated, but she then received a letter saying EBRPD has no liability.
Councilwoman Pat Anderson asked city staff to set up a meeting with park officials and neighbors to address the concerns.