Opposed to the Stadium

We at Community for Lake Merritt think that it is great that the A’s have decided to stay in Oakland, but we have serious concerns along with others over the potential placement of the new stadium on the Peralta property along the Lake Merritt channel. (If you want a good round up of all the concerns about the lake in this neighborhood, look to the East Bay Express series of articles: “Laney or Bust”)

We understand why the owners want to move near the lake. Since 2012 and the passage of Measure DD, the city of Oakland has spent (and is still spending) 198 million dollars and countless person hours on the lake and its environs. And it shows! The opening of the channel is part of these improvements, and is vital to the health of the lake.

The tides that flow up and down that stretch bring the Bay to Oakland, cleanse the lake, and bring birds, bat rays, anchovies, striped bass, and lots of fish and invertebrates. This is an unique feature of Oakland — not many cities have a slough and a wildlife refuge at their heart.

Just the other day, across from where the stadium would sit, I walked the bank and saw a large striped bass in the water, at my feet more or less. I stopped to watch and it swam off languidly, disappearing into the water. How would the stadium construction deal with the channel, what would it stir up, would it be hardscaped? What birds would the stadium attract and what would it deter.

And then the thousands of people will likely bring erosion, and litter. I would love to see more people exploring the channel. Some in the stadium crown would likely enjoy it, but for most it would be a path. Nowadays it is just me, people doing exercise or gardening by Laney, some homeless, and some fishermen. Sundays are a little busier with the swap meet in the Laney parking lot. There’s much more that could be done to make it accessible, keep it beautiful, and connect it to other paths and trails to Jack London and Brooklyn Basin. A stadium might do these things for its own ends.

And to be clear, this not a NIMBY rejection (I personally would take the 2002 Uptown version in my backyard with no issue!), but a desire to protect the potential long term vision of what the lake and its channel could offer to all of Oakland residents.


Bugs Cain — The Nature Man

How the Rotary Nature Center Came To Be

Bugs (Brighton) C. Cain was a Stanford graduate in entomology who introduced many young boys to nature around California and particularly in Oakland. According to Paul Covel, the first salaried municipal park naturalist, “Boys flocked to this nature man who could, all in a day, introduce birds, botany, insects, astronomy, and informal lessons in philosophy and behavior.” Bugs, along with his best students, created the first list of the birds of Lake Merritt—138 species!

Cain was employed by The Boy Scouts but he also worked pro bono with school and church
groups. Eventually the superintendent of parks, Lee Kerfoot, decided that this man needed some official recognition and presented him with a tin star bearing the words: “Naturalist, Oakland Park Department”. No salary accompanied this honor. Cain worked out of the famous “Bug House” at Camp Dimond where he gave lessons, collected specimens, banded and fed birds.

This site was eventually sold by the Boy Scouts and Cain was moved to other duties. He died suddenly shortly thereafter in 1950 at the early age of 31. The Bug House collection and library was presented to the Oakland Park Department by his widow. Where to house this valuable collection? With money raised by the Cain Memorial Committee, the Oakland Rotary Club, and City of Oakland the Rotary Natural Science Center was born. A friendly contractor offered to build the structure and a fine job he did. In 1953 the Rotary Nature Center opened its doors, thus providing suitable accommodations for the first salaried municipal park naturalist.

Remarkably, one of Bug’s students is still alive today. L. Martin Griffin, now 96 years old, has posted the story of Bugs Cain on his website.

Source. “People are for the Birds” by Paul F. Covel 1978, Western Interpretive Press

Photo from L. Martin Griffin’s website