BERKELEY -- Sylvia McLaughlin has been called a force of nature for her tireless efforts to protect the environment and preserve parklands and wetlands.
Now McLaughlin, 95, will have a ribbon of parkland that she helped create named in her honor. And with the honor, she also becomes one of two women to have a California state park bear her name, said parks spokesman Roy Stearns. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur is the other.
Last month, the California State Park and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to rename Eastshore State Park in honor of the Berkeley woman.
"Naming the park the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park is a wonderful way to thank a national treasure, Sylvia McLaughlin, and to honor her and the thousands of volunteers she has recruited, trained and inspired to protect the environment, create parks, save San Francisco Bay and to change the world," said Robert Cheasty, president of Citizens for East Shore Parks.
The 8.5-mile stretch of parkland runs along the East Bay shoreline through five cities from the foot of the Bay Bridge in Oakland to just north of the Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond. It was established in 2002.
McLaughlin may be best known for the work she did in the 1960s, co-founding the Save San Francisco Bay Association, now called Save the Bay, and helping to establish the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the first coastal protection agency in the U.S.
But age didn't slow down her efforts on behalf of open space, oceans and trees.
In January 2007, McLaughlin joined Betty Olds, then 86 and a Berkeley city councilwoman, and former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, then 71, in climbing a tree at the UC Berkeley oak grove, where tree sitters lived for 22 months in an effort to save three dozen trees.
Though the seniors' efforts did not save the grove, which was later razed to make room for a sports training center, the symbolic effort drew attention to the tree sit. McLaughlin and Olds were -- at the time -- older than the 80-year-old coast live oak itself.
Her tree climb came after more than 45 years of work as an environmental steward.
After helping to create the Save San Francisco Bay Association in 1961 to prevent 2,000 acres of the bay from becoming a landfill, she helped with the passage of the state's first wetlands protection law in 1974. Ten years later, she co-founded Citizens for East Shore Parks, a shoreline advocacy nonprofit, to protect open space along the East Bay's shoreline and oppose large scale development along the Berkeley waterfront. In 2002, she led efforts to create the Eastshore State Park, an urban park that stretches across Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond.
"Sylvia McLaughlin has been a force of nature at the very core of protecting our San Francisco Bay over the last 40 years," said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, in a statement. "Adding her name to Eastshore State Park will remind future generations of not only Sylvia, but all of the advocates who fought to protect the Bay and to establish this wonderful state park."
McLaughlin has had some health problems lately and was not available for comment for this story.
Citizens for East Shore Parks spearheaded the campaign to rename the park after McLaughlin.
But there was one condition.
"Characteristically, the only way Sylvia agreed to accept this honor was if the naming of the park was to honor the thousands who worked so selflessly over the decades to protect the bay and create this shoreline park," Cheasty said.
There was plenty of support for the idea. The cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Oakland and Richmond, as well as Alameda and Contra Costa counties passed resolutions in support of the renaming. More than 600 people signed letters of support.