If you need another reason to show up at the September 6th City Council meeting where a discussion of Orinda's downtown is on the agenda, we've found you one: the restoration of San Pablo Creek.
In a nutshell, San Pablo Creek as it runs from the Chevron gas station to Bank of America used to be a natural meandering creek. When Camino Pablo was built, the creek was put in a steep concrete channel which has broken down over the years. Huge chunks of concrete now litter the creek, making it unsightly and occasionally blocking the flow of water. And, despite the fence blocking the creek off to visitors, we spotted a lot of litter including a 3' x 5' area rug weighed down by rocks at the bottom of the creek.
About 15 years ago Friends of Orinda Creeks, with funding from the Regional Water Quality Control Board and EBMUD, had a restoration plan for San Pablo Creek which was approved by the City. But the project stalled, the plan languished, and the creek continued to degrade. Friends of Orinda Creeks are calling for a new effort to restore San Pablo Creek and integrate it into Orinda's commercial downtown area. They imagine pathways, creekside cafes, plenty of native plants and trees and, ideally, a walkway leading from the Community Center down to the creek. (Note: a previous proposal for the vacant lot at 25A Orinda Way had a pathway as part of their design; the current proposal by Tandem does not.)
As we hear again and again in conjunction with Orinda's downtown, there are depressing stories (the owner of the building with Siam Orchid/InForma Gym and the parking lot behind it promised to give some of her land to help make this happen, but she passed away and the opportunity was lost) and frustrations (costly surveys and engineering studies from the early 2000s will need to be redone), but there is also lots of hope. Little did What's Up Downtown Orinda know when we wrote about them on June 6th that this may just be a project the John Muir Land Trust will take on, if they have the full support of the City.
So, what needs to happen for restoration and integration of the creek to be implemented? First and foremost, there needs to be 100% commitment on the part of our City Council members to push this through. Show Darlene Gee, Dean Orr, Eve Phillips, Victoria Smith and Amy Worth that you want this for Orinda by coming to the City Council meeting en masse on September 6th, or reach out to them via email here. Join the Friends of Orinda Creeks here and donate and/or email the John Muir Land Trust about the San Pablo Creek here.
There are so many benefits of creek restoration from the essential (erosion and stream bank stabilization, flood control and safety) to the intrinsically valuable (environmental and habitat enhancement, a potential landmark in the reimagining of Orinda's lackluster downtown). Let's make this happen, Orinda!