Opinion: Elect Norman La Force to the parks board for his leadership and commitment to environmental goals

He has a record of close to 40 years of making parks, creating recreational opportunities, saving wildlife and protecting habitat 

We are always honored when we have a chance to endorse a candidate who has demonstrated not only commitment to environmental values and goals, but effective leadership in achieving them. This year we are pleased to have the opportunity to endorse Norman La Force for the East Bay Regional Park District Board.

We endorse Norman because he has a record of close to 40 years of making parks, creating recreational opportunities, saving wildlife and protecting habitat. He has not only been a leader on East Bay park issues within various organizations but as its lawyer, he has represented the Sierra Club pro bono on a number of environmental lawsuits. Indeed, he is currently representing the Sierra Club in its campaign to save Point Molate as a regional park. We are fortunate to have someone with Norman’s experience, knowledge and commitment to run for the Park Board.

He has been effective. He helped put together the coalition that stopped the Santa Fe railroad from building a new downtown with high-rise office buildings on the Berkeley waterfront. He was a key leader in writing Measure C in Albany in 1990 that guaranteed to the people of Albany the right to vote on any change to the waterfront zoning to protect it from being developed into high-rise office buildings or a shopping mall.

At the Zeneca site in Richmond, he stood up against the developer who wanted to let toxic gases vent into the living and parking spaces of the residents. The developer was so upset that he threatened to sue Norman for defamation but backed down when he realized he would lose. But the campaign for a clean non-toxic Zeneca site continues.

For more than 20 years Norman has campaigned to save Point Molate as a regional park. He is the Sierra Club’s pro bono attorney in our lawsuit to prevent the construction of a luxury housing development at the site that has no infrastructure (no water, sewer, power, transit or adequate roads); a development that will destroy sacred Native American Ohlone sites, destroy the site of a famous 1900’s Chinese-American shrimp camp and harm the most productive eelgrass beds on the West Coast, aquatic vegetation that sequesters more carbon than trees, helping in our fight against climate change.

After the terrible 1991 Oakland/Berkeley Hills fire, Norman convinced the Park District to create a comprehensive vegetation plan for the wildland-urban interface to reduce fire risk from the next wildland fire. He also put together the funding plan for that critical effort.

He has also created opportunities for disadvantaged youth and communities of color to experience the full range of an urban park experience. At the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, his years of efforts have demonstrably led to the protection of wildlife areas and places where people can boat, bike, hike, walk their dogs off-leash, and also enter into the protected Meadow to experience wildlife in their habitat. All at the Berkeley waterfront.

Norman has achieved all of these things by working with community groups in building coalitions that have successfully negotiated with other competing and disparate interest groups. Without Norman La Force’s leadership we would not have parks where we have protected wildlife and habitat and provided recreational opportunities for dog walkers for both on- and off-leash dogs, kayakers and boaters, and trails for hikers, equestrians, and bikers. We also got an expanded Point Isabel Dog Park due to his efforts where his daughter walks her rescue husky off-leash.

All of these accomplishments were done through teamwork. Norman proved time and again his ability to organize others and cooperate with different organizations to reach goals and accomplish things for the greater good.

He routinely built teams that worked to get parks, get habitats, get access to and even get ballfields and off-leash dog parks.

None of this was done by Norman for himself or for selfish reasons. He is a park creator – of parks for all to use. In all his work he has sought to bring people together to balance recreational and wildlife values for all.  You can learn about his work and vision at www.laforceofcourse.org.

Please join the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters and many other park supporters to elect Norman La Force our next Park Director.

Helen Burke, retired director, East Bay Municipal Utilities Director representing Berkeley and Citizens for East Shore Parks Board of Directors, City Councilmember Sophie Hahn, City Councilmember Kate Harrison and the Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group, Gayle McLaughlin, former mayor of Richmond, Marge Atkinson, former mayor of Albany and Citizens for East Shore Parks Board of Directors, Arthur Feinstein, chair, Sierra Club California Conservation Committee, Igor Tregub, chair, Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group, Lisa Park, vice chair, Sierra Club West County Group, Irene Dieter, vice chair, Sierra Club Public Lands Committee