The East Bay Regional Park District has plans for the large dirt pile in Berkeley’s McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. Photo: Michael Short
The East Bay Regional Park District has plans for the large dirt pile in Berkeley’s McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. Photo: Michael Short

A 10-year-old, 53-foot pile of dirt in Berkeley’s McLaughlin Eastshore State Park is set to be lowered by 15 feet and spread around the parkland as part of renovations to improve the area.

The East Bay Regional Park District is slated to start work on the project this week. The dirt will be spread between the Seabreeze Market and Brickyard Cove.

“Trails, a picnic area, debris removal, native plant seeding and shoreline restoration are part of the long-term plan,” EBRPD said in a prepared statement. “In all, the Park District plans to move more than 100,000 cubic yards of dirt.”

The dirt pile has been around for about a decade, and came from excavation projects around the Bay Area, including El Cerrito High School’s sports fields and UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.

A “very small portion” that is contaminated will be removed. Several smaller hills will be created “to buffer the park from the freeway and create views for bird-watching and enjoying the scenery,” according to EBRPD.

Starting Wednesday, the Brickyard Cove area will be closed for several months while work is underway. It should re-open by late summer.

“Wildlife biologists surveyed the area last week and determined that it contains no nesting birds and no burrowing owls,” according to the Park District’s statement.

The dirt pile and activity on and around it has mystified local residents for years. Back in August 2012, Kate Harper wrote Berkeleyside to ask: “What the heck has been going on behind Seabreeze Market for a decade? Semis drive around all day on that pile of dirt and I used to think they were building something exciting. But nothing ever appears…”

McLaughlin Eastshore State Park is an 1,854-acre, 8.5-mile-long park that stretches from Richmond to the Bay Bridge. Named after Sylvia McLaughlin, a founder of Save the Bay who died in January, the park attracts thousands of visitors annually. The East Bay Regional Park District manages the park on behalf of the California State Parks department.

The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which was established in 1934. The district’s 65 parks span 120,000 acres, including more than 1,250 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...