Nature Takes its Course

In case you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you, say, filled part of San Francisco Bay with landfill and built some airstrips on it, then abandoned them for a decade or more, here is a photo I took yesterday at the Alameda Naval Air Station, which has been unused by planes for over a decade:

The Tide is High

That’s a tidal pool on an old taxiway—the water shows up around high tide, then drains away as the tide subsides. Here’s a shot from the same angle, taken at a dry point in March:

A Runway with a View.

When you gaze out at the runways with plants growing in every crack and shorebirds sometimes swimming in the temporary pools of water, you get the feeling that it would only take another decade or two for the bay to reclaim this land. With the ongoing battles over redeveloping the area, maybe we’ll actually see it happen. Here’s a different angle of the same tidal pool, with a disappearing runway and the cranes and shipping containers of the Port of Oakland in the background:

New Growth

(I posted some other photos of NAS Alameda here back in March. Those photos and a few more are all collected in a Flickr set.

10 Responses to “Nature Takes its Course”

  1. Pedestrianist says:

    Wow, that’s fascinating. Maybe it’s time for Alameda to go for broke and consider a Treasure Island-style development on the old air base. Identify the land that’s the most stable and build a dense, urban neighborhood there, then clean up the rest and let it subside naturally.

    If they could use developer fees and generate political will, maybe they could get an Alameda Station on a new BART Transbay Tube.

  2. unique distance from isolation says:

    In other news about nature taking its course, Brother Blue is dead at 88. RIP.

  3. dc says:

    Pedestrianist: Now that I’ve looked into it more, it seems that the land where the runways are—which is almost entirely landfill—may actually be set aside as a National Wildlife Refuge, although I don’t know if that is definite or still just a tentative plan. And now that I think of it, the fences keeping people out of that area (my photos were taken over the fence) have warnings about protected terns which populate that area. So your suggestion may be somewhat similar to what the current plans are, although I suspect that your notion of a “dense, urban neighborhood” may not be the same as Suncal’s, or the average Alamedan’s. Here is a piece of the map showing the development proposal, from the Alameda Point website:

    (The area marked “Golf Course” was already land before the navy base was built—it had, I believe, a small airstrip and a rail terminal on it—but most of the proposed wildlife refuge is landfill. I assume that factored into the plans. My photos, in case anyone is curious, were taken from a spot on the border between the wildlife refuge and the development area, near the southern edge of the island. That rectangular harbor is a seaplane lagoon, and the ships in the lower right corner are navy ships, including the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier.)

    unique distance from isolation: That’s sad! I really have no clear memories of Brother Blue, but I do have a few dim ones. I seem to remember trekking over to Harvard Square when all the streets (and schools) were closed for days and days after the blizzard of ’78, and listening to Brother Blue regale a crowd who were gathered on some snowbanks near Brine’s (which probably isn’t there anymore!). I have a feeling that the memory could be invented, though, or a second-hand recreation of an event that someone told me about later. I was only four-going-on-five years old then, after all…

  4. eric says:

    I think I saw brother blue at some kind of anti-war protest back in the bush years–still seeming, I think, his deeply intelligent self. I don’t really remember specifics, I just remember the effect he had.

  5. wordnerd says:

    From the Globe:

  6. eric says:

    potential home?:

  7. dc says:

    That sure is one ugly boat! Looks like it’s not really meant for leaving the delta either. This one looks a lot nicer, and it’s docked on the bay instead of in godforsaken Stockton:

    I prefer sailboats anyway. If you see a 35′ sailboat docked in a transferable liveaboard slip in Berkeley marina, then let me know. Otherwise I’ll probably remain a landlubber for a while—at least until the rainy season is over.

  8. eric says:

    Only 26′, but cheap:

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