Tons more sand will soon line the shore at Crown Beach in Alameda as the result of a major restoration project scheduled this fall, coordinated by the East Bay Regional Park District.

Between September and November, 82,600 cubic yards of sand will be pumped ashore from barges, at a cost of nearly $5.3 million, in order to restore and protect the popular park.

According to Diane Althoff, the park district's chief of design and construction, people will still be able to get to the beach across sand fill or ramps over the pipeline, though some areas will be restricted sequentially as the work progresses from one end of the beach to the other.

"This is a real boon to the public," said Robert Doyle, park district general manager. "But with bigger storms and sea level rise in the future, we cannot afford to protect Crown Beach without additional partners. The park district had to use emergency reserves to fund the project."

One of the largest public beaches on San Francisco Bay, Crown is on an artificial shoreline with no natural source of sand replenishment. There's about one percent offshore loss of sand annually, with occasional greater loss due to major storm seasons such as occurred in 1998 and 2005-2006. Annual maintenance includes collecting sand transported along the shore by wave action and redistributing it along the length of the beach.


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A major sand replenishment project took place at Crown Beach back in 1982, and the restored beach lasted well beyond its projected 20-year life cycle. Besides protecting Shore Line Drive, the beach is popular for picnicking, swimming, nature programs at the visitor center and the always entertaining annual sand castle and sand sculpture competition.

Sand replacement is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency up to $725,000; grants from the State Department of Boating and Waterways; and Dubai Star oil spill mitigation funds. Bids for the project came in about $4.6 million above the engineer's estimate. The park district board approved an additional $3 million from Measure AA bond funds and unassigned general fund balances.

There's a fairly small window of opportunity to complete the work, because construction is governed by regulations that reflect seasonal environmental impact concerns. When you visit Crown Beach this fall, please abide by whatever access restrictions are in place at the moment. The final results will be well worth the wait.

CRAB COVE: As long as we're at Crown Beach, you should definitely check out the Crab Cove Visitor Center, located at 1252 McKay Ave. off Central Avenue in Alameda. The center hosts a family nature fun hour from 2 to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in July and August.

With a naturalist as guide, you can explore the pond and shoreline in search of birds, turtles and dragonflies. Inside the center are some large tanks with fish native to San Francisco Bay and some exhibits recalling Crown Beach's raffish 19th century days as the "Coney Island of the West." For information, call the center at 510-544-3187.

TILDEN: Creatures of the night will be showcased in a program from 2 to 3:30 p.m. July 28 at the Environmental Education Center in Tilden Nature Area, Berkeley.

Naturalist Anthony Fisher will present video images of animals caught on motion-activated cameras in the regional parks. The program is free, and there's a short, optional hike afterward. The center is located at the north end of Tilden's Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

TEMESCAL: Or you can meet a gopher snake up close and personal, while learning about other local wildlife, all at Temescal Regional Recreation Area in Oakland.

Naturalist Michael Charnofsky and the gopher snake will be at a table on Lake Temescal's south lawn from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. July 28. The park is located at the junction of Highways 24 and 13 in Oakland. For more information, call 510-544-3187.

SIBLEY HIKE: Saturday and Sunday Strolls are a series of family-friendly, naturalist-led hikes in various regional parks. There's a 3-miler from 10 a.m. to noon July 27 from Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve to Huckleberry Preserve and back.

Meet at the Sibley parking lot, which is on Skyline Boulevard a short distance south of the intersection with Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Oakland. Though it's short, this hike is steep in a couple of places. But it traverses a very pretty, shady canyon. For information, call 510-544-3187.

BLACK DIAMOND: Join a snake for brunch -- mice are on the menu -- from 10 to 11 a.m. July 27 at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. The host is naturalist Bob Kanagaki, along with Black Diamond Mines' reptilian residents. Locale for the program is the park's Sidney Flat Visitor Center, which is in the cluster of buildings on the left just past the entrance kiosk.

The program is designed for ages 7 and older. Like every animal including us, snakes have to eat. But the process can be a bit unsettling to see. Black Diamond Mines has an entrance fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

SKILL SESSIONS: Two age-old Native American skills will be showcased in a couple of programs scheduled soon in the regional parks. At Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont, naturalist Dino Labiste will conduct a clinic on starting fire by friction using hand and bow drills. It's from 1:30 to 4 p.m. July 27. I've participated in one of Dino's programs. He's really good at bow drill fire starting; it's harder than it looks. Dino's program is free, designed for ages 16 and older, and registration is required. To register, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 2898.

Then from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 11, naturalist Anthony Fisher will host a program at Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley that's all about Native American uses of elderberry, including making elderberry flutes. They're easy to make, hard to play. Anthony's program is for ages 10 and up. Registration is required, and there's a fee of $10 per person ($12 for nondistrict residents) to cover material costs. Call the same phone number and refer to program 3132.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.