We represent a broad range of parks user groups who rely on our parks for recreation, arts, youth education and development, and access to nature on our crowded urban shoreline and hills. We hike, run, cycle, hold arts festivals, play music, kayak, paddle board, windsurf, kiteboard, fish, and walk with our families, our students, and our dogs. It has never been more evident how critical these scarce open spaces are for the East Bay community’s mental and physical health.
Our East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) parks are overseen by a board of directors. You have the opportunity to help elect the Director of Ward 1 this November. Ward 1 includes the communities of Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Kensington, part of Pinole, Richmond and San Pablo. The EBRPD parks in Ward 1 include Brooks Island, Kennedy Grove, McLaughlin Eastshore State Park (which includes shoreline areas in Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond, plus Albany Beach), Miller/Knox, Point Isabel, Point Pinole, Sobrante Ridge, Tilden, and Wildcat Canyon.
As a lifelong environmentalist, Ms. Echols has been a careful steward of the rich habitat of our parks and also understands the importance of access to nature for people in the East Bay. Ms. Echols, in addition to having the endorsement of every current EBRPD board member, has worked closely with diverse user groups to understand their concerns and those of all parks stakeholders. For example, she played a critical role in getting Point Isabel re-opened after it was closed during the early days of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order. Her strong advocacy for that reopening was a manifestation of her understanding of how important our regional parks are for the well-being of all visitors: walkers, joggers, elders, people with disabilities, children, and people with dogs. Echols listens, builds consensus, and gets things done.
By contrast, her opponent, Norman La Force, poses a threat to the enjoyment of and public access to our regional open spaces. He has a long history of using lawsuits to stop park projects from moving forward. Those actions have cost the park district hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and thousands of hours of staff time -- scarce resources that could have been better spent on park improvements.
Mr. La Force focuses narrowly on wildlife habitat without a reasonable sense of the importance of balancing preservation and recreation. His approach has often been divisive and shortsighted. He opposed the extension of the Bay Trail from Buchanan Street to Pt. Isabel in 1995, kayaking and access to the water in many parts of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, bicycle use on fire roads, and rowing by the Berkeley High School girls crew team in Aquatic Park lagoon. He sued EBRPD, unsuccessfully (three times), to remove kiteboarders and people with dogs from Albany Beach. Time and again, he has tried to eliminate areas where people can bring dogs to parks, but now poses with a dog on his website while claiming he supports dog-friendly policies.
We need board members who want people to engage more with our parks, not board members who put up barriers to those parks. For our urban shorelines, we need parks that invite everyone to experience the waters of the Bay first-hand.
As the current Ward 1 Director, Ms. Echols has already demonstrated her skill at navigating complex demands from various groups. While Mr. La Force has a history of advocating through the singular lens of limiting human access, Ms. Echols understands the importance of balance: of encouraging people to connect with their parks, become stewards of them, and ultimately to cast their votes to support, improve, and sustain them long-term. Ms. Echols listens, Mr. La Force brings lawsuits.
The East Bay Regional Park District is almost 200 square miles of open space, including shoreline areas and protected waters. Its 73 parks include two island bird sanctuaries and multiple protected marshes and preserves. Its bounty sustains habitat, wildlife, and the entire East Bay community.
We urge you to vote for Elizabeth Echols for Director, Ward 1, to ensure effective stewardship of and access to this unique treasure. Please vote for her in November and please go to her website now to support her campaign:
Most importantly: Please share this letter with your friends and family NOW. Their mail-in ballots will be arriving shortly.
Signed by the following park advocates, users, and volunteer stewards: