Berkeley says goodbye to its giant pile of dirt

Looking south from the I-80 bike bridge, new grading and hydroseeding of the The Brickyard are now complete. Photo: Jim Rosenau
Looking south from the I-80 bike bridge, new grading and hydroseeding of the ‘brickyard’ are now complete. Photo: Jim Rosenau

By Jim Rosenau

The giant pile of dirt on Berkeley’s shoreline is no more. After about a decade as a storage yard for soil, ‘the brickyard,’ 31 prominent acres of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park just west of the I-80 bike bridge, was recently regraded and planted. The area will likely reopen next spring after the plantings take hold.

For at least the past decade soil in mounds up to 50-foot high were stored at the site by a private contractor. When that lease expired, 100,000 cubic yards of soil were shifted and the level was lowered as much as 15 feet. The perimeter was raised to prepare for sea level rise. Like most of the 1,854 acres of the park, Berkeley’s portion, including all its shoreline and The Meadow, consists of bay fill. Little of the original pre-industrial age shoreline remains nearby.

Brickyard phasing plan. Click on image to enlarge. Image: EBRPD
Brickyard phasing plan. Click on image to enlarge. Image: EBRPD

The site cannot be opened until a Water Resources Control Board construction permit is closed, according to Ren Bates, capital program manager for the East Bay Regional Parks District, which manages the park for the California State Parks Department. The terms of the permit require 70% vegetation cover and this will have to wait for winter rains. The initial plantings include yarrow, California poppies, lupine and a mix of perennial grasses. Once irrigation is installed, further plantings will include shrubs and ground-covers.

The Seabreeze market lease is currently on a year-to-year basis and ultimately the park’s General Plan calls for a food concession with outdoor seating on the cove at the mouth of Strawberry Creek, west of the present market.

This initial phase of improvement cost about $1 million which came from a $5 million fund the California State Park Department set aside for the brickyard area. The next phase of work will bring in utilities, an entry plaza with paved parking, picnic tables and restrooms. Bates points out that portions of the site will again be closed during future construction.

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

Days are numbered for giant Berkeley dirt pile (2.23.16)

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