By Beverly Lane
For a breezy, scenic walk along the water with lots of bird life and a colorful history, the place to go is Martinez Regional Shoreline.
The park is a cooperative venture of East Bay Regional Park District and the city of Martinez. An area of marshland and industrial fill was converted into a beautiful public recreational resource.
To get there from I-680, take the Marina Vista exit and turn left on Marina Vista. In downtown Martinez, turn right onto Ferry Street and drive over the railroad tracks into the park.
The east side is Waterfront Park, operated by Martinez. It has a soccer field, baseball fields, and bocce courts that are always busy.
The west side is Martinez Regional Shoreline, with a lawn area, picnic tables, and trails leading out to the marshes and shoreline. Dogs are allowed in the picnic areas, but not in the duck pond area or marshes, in order to protect the shorebirds.
A $4.5 million marsh enhancement project was completed in the spring of 2002, sponsored by the city, park district and Caltrans. By expanding marshland along Alhambra Creek, the project created more wildlife habitat and alleviated rainy season flooding in downtown Martinez. The project included retrofitting the arch bridge over the creek, construction of a boardwalk over the marsh on the Pickleweed Trail, construction of another 120-foot bridge, and interpretive panels with information on area history.
Just offshore from the Pickleweed Trail are the remains of the lumber schooner Forester, which plied the South Sea trade for many years, then served as home to her skipper until his death in 1947.
For another lovely shoreline walk, check out the nearby George Miller Regional Trail, which links Martinez to Port Costa. It’s an easy three-mile round trip walk on a paved trail that is open to hikers, bicyclists and equestrians, but not to motorized vehicles except for park rangers, police and emergency traffic.
The trail offers spectacular views of Carquinez Strait and its maritime traffic, the city of Benicia across the way, and Mt. Diablo to the east.
You can reach the trail from either the Port Costa or Martinez side. From Martinez, drive west on Carquinez Scenic Drive past Alhambra Cemetery. From Port Costa, drive down McEwen Road from Highway 4, then turn right on the drive.
There’s a parking lot and toilet near the start of the trail on the Port Costa side. On the Martinez side there’s parking and a toilet at the Nejedly Staging Area just past the cemetery. However it’s an extra mile or so walk from there to the start of the trail, along a part of the drive where motor vehicles are still allowed.
If you do park on the roadside at the start of the George Miller Trail, be sure not to block any fire gates. Those gates provide access for maintenance crews and emergency vehicles.
Once on the trail, it’s easy walking, bicycling or horseback riding. Dogs must be on leash, and cyclists must observe the 15 mile-per-hour speed limit. This is especially important because there are many blind curves and the trail is often used by family groups with children in strollers. So please observe mutual courtesy.
The trail is named in honor of now-retired Congressman George Miller, a 40-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Miller has been a staunch supporter of the Park District during his entire tenure.
Funding sources for the estimated $5.5 million project included a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER II) grant, the State Coastal Conservancy, Contra Costa Transportation Authority Measure J, and the Park District's Measure WW bond funds.
The trail is a major link in the San Francisco Bay Trail, which will eventually encircle the entire bay. Meanwhile it’s a great place for an afternoon stroll with panoramic views.