Point Molate is a former Navy fueling station, closed in 1995, and legislated by Congress to be transferred to the City of Richmond as a stimulus to economic development. The Site includes approximately 1.5 miles of Bay shoreline, approximately 90 acres of developed land (including the Winehaven Historical District) and approximately 200 acres of degraded open space. The Navy Record of Decision specifically ruled that use of the site as parkland alone would not qualify under the intent of the Congressional transfer.
However, open space is an important value for local communities, for the project team, and for the Guidiville Tribe. For this reason, the Project has been designed to fit within the existing footprint of development, leaving the majority of the Site open for parks, hiking trails, and ecological restoration. Concentrating development actually improves the vitality and walkability of the village, and surrounds it with a beautiful natural setting.
Making Open Space Affordable and Accessible
Financially strapped communities often struggle to find the resources to acquire and maintain adequate open space. The proposed closure of numerous State Parks due to state budgetary difficulties is an example in point. Because this Project will be a strong economic engine, it will generate sufficient revenues to set aside, restore, and maintain a large majority of the Point Molate site as open space. Existing contractual agreements with the City of Richmond codify that requirement.
The entire Point Molate open space currently is fenced off with no public access due to the extended schedule of cleanup activities under the responsibility of the US Navy. The Navy’s schedule to complete its cleanup activities has, in the past, extended beyond the year 2015, with no commitment for a firm final date.
That all changed on April 9, 2010 when the Richmond City Council approved an agreement to manage $28.5 million in cleanup funds transferred to the City under an Early Transfer Cooperative Agreement (ETCA) in which the Navy will transfer the deed to the land for to the City of Richmond along with the $28.5 million in funding. The result of this agreement will be a more rapid and complete cleanup of the site than would be possible under Navy ownership.
The ETCA for Point Molate was the only such agreement approved by the federal government in 2008. The Tribe and Upstream are committed to continued community oversight of the environmental cleanup through the City’s own citizen-based Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), and already have committed $4 million to clean up the site to residential level standards, much higher than what was under consideration by the Navy.
Point Molate is likely the only successful ETCA in the nation that has actually closed in the past couple of years. The Tribe and Upstream are proud of this accomplishment, especially in working closely with the City of Richmond. We thank key city officials who played a critical role in persevering through a difficult and complex process and making this historic agreement possible.
The Bay Trail is a Bay Area-wide initiative that will eventually create a trail system around the entire Bay. As part of the 2004 Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) with the City of Richmond, a project commitment was extended, with the support of Trails for Richmond Action Committee (TRAC) to dedicate, fund and construct the 1.5 miles of site shoreline for use as part of the Bay Trail. This new addition will add to the existing 24.9 miles of Bay Trail in the City, making Richmond a Bay Area leader with regard to fulfilling its commitment to the Bay Trail effort.
Parks and Gardens
Approximately 180 acres of the Point Molate property is being set aside as open space, including the planned shoreline park along the entire western edge of the Site. The majority of those acres will be passive park, accessed by biking and hiking trails and managed for habitat and watershed health. Parts of the terrace along the coast will be dedicated to active uses, including playgrounds, places for picnics, landings for kayakers and boaters, and plazas for events and gatherings.
A community garden is planned, producing fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables. This will serve local residents and restaurants, as well as providing an outdoor classroom for local schools and interested neighbors. Also, an ethno-botanical education garden will display traditional plants of cultural importance to local tribes.
Reconnecting to the Shoreline
For several generations, the communities of the Bay Area tended to turn their backs on the Bay. It became an industrial area, and received more than its share of pollutants and landfill. Both the Bay and local communities suffered from this neglect, as lack of contact led to lack of understanding and caring. Recent decades have seen a strong shift back to the Bay, with many communities reconnecting to their waterfronts as places to live, work, and celebrate. With this reconnection has come a heightened awareness of the Bay as a living system—one that needs to be sustained and supported.
Point Molate is part of this larger social phenomenon. It is perhaps a particularly poignant example, since it also represents an attempt by an indigenous community to reconnect to the Bay it once called home. As a new and many layered community development project that will attract and influence millions of visitors, Point Molate will serve as a place for rediscovering and evolving new ways to live in connection with the Bay.