Boat landing, launch sites linking up in Bay 

A plan to preserve and link landing and launch sites around San Francisco Bay that has been floating in the minds and hearts of Bay Area boaters for years is set to become reality.

The Bay Area Water Trail Plan, which would create a waterway network for nonmotorized boaters, is ready to launch with the approval this month of a $1 million two-year grant from the California Coastal Conservancy.

In the works since the passage of the Water Trail Act in 2005, the plan will identify current and proposed landing and launch sites throughout the nine Bay Area counties as “backbone sites.” It also will utilize the estimated $2,539,000 in funding to improve existing water sites. Such repairs could include increased parking at launch sites, restrooms and storage units, said Ann Buell, the project’s manager.

“We’re very eager to have this,” said Bay Access President Penny Wells, whose organization began 10 years ago with the intention of preserving vanishing water-access points. “A lot of places where we used to put boats in the water are gone. It’s been five years since the [Water Trail Act], and there isn’t a single designated water trail.”

The plan identifies about 10 existing launch and destination sites in San Francisco with two planned for the future. San Mateo County has about 14 existing launch sites and two planned.

About 112 sites in total were identified throughout nine Bay Area counties. The conservancy hopes to use the additional funding not only to add more sites, but to educate boaters on wildlife and personal safety, Buell said.

About half the backbone sites are in various waterfront parks, Buell said, and another 17 percent are in marinas and harbors.

Though the vast majority of the sites are publicly owned, some are on privately owned land, Buell said. Participation in the water-trail plan by private owners is “completely voluntary.”

One San Francisco site, The City’s Pier 1½, could one day be on the list. It is used by kayakers and nonmotorized boaters.

“That site wasn’t on our radar screen when we built the water-trail plan,” Buell said. “But it has fantastic potential.”

The majority of backbone sites are already built, but none have been officially designated as part of the water-trail network, Buell said.

With the approval of the environmental review, the project can now start the process of officially designating existing sites, Buell said. The first public meeting where future sites will be discussed is scheduled for this summer.

Project purse

Estimated two-year funding breakdown:

- California Coastal Conservancy Grant: $1 million
- California Department of Boating and Waterways (estimated): $1 million
- Other contributors (estimated): $539,000

San Francisco
- Existing launch sites: 9
- Existing destinations: 1
- Planned launch sites: 2

San Mateo County
- Existing launch sites: 14
- Planned launch destinations: 1
- Planned launch sites: 1

Source: California Coastal Conservancy

For location information on specific water-access points, visit bayaccess.org

aterrazas@sfexaminer.com

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Thursday, Nov 20, 2014

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