The Shoreline’s Tarnished
Despite its natural beauty, the
North Richmond Shoreline has been a dumping ground for East Bay
communities for years. Large swaths of marshland have been illegally
filled, causing severe environmental damage.
The West County Landfill,
a 235-foot-tall “garbage
mountain,” has finally been stuffed to capacity after more
than 50 years of dumping.
South of the dump, near Wildcat
Creek Marsh, are sewage treatment plants.
Chevron expelled contaminated
refinery wastewater into Castro Cove (west of Wildcat Creek Marsh)
for nearly a century.
Neighbors have been denied access
to a healthy shoreline.
Hundreds of years ago, the North Richmond Shoreline consisted of
a large, broad mudflat that extended all the way from Point Pinole
to Point San Pablo. The area also included a massive tidal marsh
that extended for more than 2,000 acres along most of the Shoreline
and all the way to Richmond’s south shoreline. Wildcat, San
Pablo, Rheem, and Castro Creeks meandered slowly through the broad
flat land between the East Bay hills and the San Pablo Bay supplying
clean water and clean sediment that helped keep the marshes and
What has happened to these habitats
between 1800 and today is similar to what has happened to tidal
marshes and creeks all over the Bay Area where more than 95% of
tidal marshes have been filled or dyked. Because of its long and
accessible shoreline, Richmond became the home of a major oil refinery,
the terminus of the continental railroad, shipyards, and lots of
related industry and housing. To make way for much of this development,
companies drained and dyked thousands of acres of tidal marsh,
moved creeks, and built on top of mudflats. The area in grey on
the map above on the right shows all the areas of former natural
habitat that were filled to make way for industry or housing.
the History of Point Pinole courtesy of East Bay Regional Park
the large marsh that once stretched for thousands of acres between
the North Richmond Shoreline and Richmond’s south shore has
been reduced to approximately 500 acres. What was once one large
marsh is now two smaller marshes – the 340 acre Wildcat Creek
Marsh and 140 acre San Pablo Marsh – separated by the West
County Landfill. Much of Giant Marsh has been filled in, reducing
Giant Marsh from approximately 41 acres to 23 acres. The creeks
that once meandered slowly from the East Bay Hills to the Bay have
been frequently moved, straightened, and depleted of trees and
other vegetation to reduce flooding and allow for more industry
and housing to be built along their banks (and in some cases on
top of them).
Historical and current habitat mapping
information provided by San Francisco Bay Area Wetland Ecosystem