Adapting to Rising Tides Program: Preserving Shoreline Parks in the Face of Climate Change

The Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s (BCDC) Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) Program supports climate adaptation planning across ten shoreline counties in the San Francisco Bay area of California. This report focuses on the East Bay Regional Park District’s (EBRPD) shoreline parks in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. The ART Program staff worked with EBRPD staff to assess the vulnerability and risk for all EBRPD shoreline parks. The report describes the current condition of those parks the demographics of the populations EBRPD serves, the vulnerability and risks for shoreline parks due to climate change, potential adaptation responses, and recommendations for building shoreline park resilience.

The report begins by highlighting the benefits of the shoreline parks, including:

  • Flood Protection: Shoreline parks serve as coastal flood protection by detaining stormwater in wetlands and permeable surfaces, reducing the impact of waves across wetlands, reducing the need for expensive levees and seawalls, and serving as a setback that separates development from storms and sea level rise.
  • Economic Benefit: According to the report, “The park system… provides $200 million in direct, regional economic benefits.” In addition, parks are found to increase property values across the country, in turn contributing to the tax revenue within cities that have strong park systems.
  • Educational Value: The ART Program has found that shoreline parks are an effective tool for educating communities on the effects of climate change.

Exposure analysis and the vulnerability and risk assessments were conducted for nine parks and regional shorelines managed by EBRPD. All of the parks are projected to experience at least some flooding with six feet of sea level rise.

The research group conducted surveys, site visits, and interviews, in addition to studying EBRPD funding and planning processes for these assessments. The report summarizes the study findings for each of the individual parks in the study area. 

The ART program developed the following priority climate adaptation and resilience strategies for the EBRPD: (see Chapters 5 and 6 for more detailed adaptation responses and recommendations)

  • Incorporate sea level rise and climate adaptation into existing public education and outreach programs and expand these programs to new audiences and areas.
  • Preserve and enhance shoreline habitat and wetlands on EBRPD property in conjunction with regional agencies and in accordance with the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Update.
  • Coordinate with permitting and regulatory agencies to facilitate efficient adaptation through programmatic EIRs and pilot projects such as the Bruener Marsh Restoration and Mitigation Bank.
  • Identify hotspots where flooding and erosion cause problems now and there is limited space for adaptation, e.g., Bay Trail in Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline.
  • Find new funding sources for adaptation by integrating parks planning and improvements with water quality, wetland habitat, flood control, and urban development projects.

The report closes with a discussion of EBRPD’s future ability to prepare for sea level rise and storm impact - and the top priorities for the department. A cost-benefit analysis of expensive projects (like sand replacement) is recommended. Other good starting points could be small-scale improvements, like replacing bathrooms and beach mats with flood resilient alternatives. The report also emphasizes that developing partnerships will allow for longer-term resilience, as agencies can coordinate their adaptation efforts and respond more efficiently, collectively.   


Publication Date: September 2015

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  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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