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Point Molate Rising
It might have been a major new casino development. Instead, says, David Helvarg, Point Molate is Richmond's new jewel of a park.

By David Helvarg

It's been called "the most beautiful part of San Francisco Bay no one's ever heard of."  I think the opening of Point Molate Beach Park this Saturday will change all that.

From this quarter-mile beach in Richmond you can enjoy spectacular views of the San Rafael Bridge and Mount Tam. Just offshore pelicans and gulls work the tide line while harbor seals check out the scene.

The beach -- that was closed for nearly a decade -- is part of the 422-acre Point Molate headlands. Located just over a ridgeline from Chevron's oil refinery, Point Molate is an example of the resiliency of nature left unpaved. It's home to ospreys, owls, wild turkey, mule deer and 50 acres of offshore eel grass beds. It includes hilly native grasslands and giant Christmas berry shrubs the size of live oaks -- also live oaks, eucalyptus and a historic wine port with a brick castle. Later it became a Navy fuel oil depot before the Navy sold it to the city for $1 in 2003.

For the next seven years Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate led a successful battle against a plan to convert it into a gambling casino complex, the largest west of Las Vegas. In 2010 Richmond residents voted 58 percent to 42 percent against the casino believing we could do better.

The controversy generated in those years has now been replaced by a sense of promise. Richmond looks to this natural treasure for new opportunities in recreation, tourism and youth education. It feels a lot like San Francisco's Presidio before that was transformed into a world-class park.

Richmond has a rich waterfront history. When Mayor McLaughlin cuts the ribbon opening Point Molate Park on Saturday, our history will be enriched once again. However, for the kids playing along the shore it may feel like just another day at the beach.
 
With a Perspective, this is David Helvarg.
 
David Helvarg is an author and executive director of Blue Frontier, an ocean conservation group.

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