By Sally Douglas Arce
Courtesy of Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP)
Sylvia McLaughlin died at her Berkeley home on Tuesday, Jan. 19. She was the co-founder of Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) and served on its board of directors since 1985.
“We are deeply saddened by Sylvia’s passing and send our well wishes to her family,” says Robert Cheasty, president of the board of Citizens for East Shore Parks. “She has left us an inspiring legacy of parks, open space and environmental activism. She was an inspiration to us all and would want this important work to continue for future generations.”
This past November, McLaughlin was honored at CESP’s 30th Anniversary Brunch. McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, which is uniquely citizen-inspired, was named after her in 2012. CESP galvanized the opposition to commercial development of the shoreline, championing public access and a single shoreline park on the remaining open space along the east shore of San Francisco Bay from the Bay Bridge into Richmond. The Park runs 8.5 miles through five cities: Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany and Richmond.
Sylvia McLaughlin helped create the Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC), a permanent state agency to regulate filling the bay and shoreline development. BCDC was the first agency of its kind and is the model for coastal zone management worldwide.
“Sylvia was more than an environmental mover and shaker,” Cheasty says. “She mentored many of us through example. Although Sylvia was already known for her work with Save The Bay and was in her 70’s, she served as Secretary of CESP from the beginning. She hosted events in her house, chaired various working committee meetings, did fundraising, visited a raft of elected and appointed officials, and made public appearances at hearings and Board meetings whenever she could.” McLaughlin was part of a “flying squad” (with CESP President Robert Cheasty, Sierra Club leader Norman La Force and former Golden Gate Audubon Society Executive Director Arthur Feinstein) that met with state and local officials to push the park into existence, to ensure that there were proper protections for habitat and to facilitate a good balance between public use and conservation.
McLaughlin was a gentle, but strong, activist, who began her work before the term “environmentalism” was in common use. “She was a master at reaching out to diverse stakeholders, be they Independents, Democrats or Republicans, in advancing the work to protect our shoreline,” says Patricia Jones, CESP executive director. “Sylvia poured her heart and soul into parks and open space projects and one great example of her regional footprint is the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.”
In addition to Citizens for East Shore Parks, she co-founded Save the Bay, along with Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick, and Urban Care, a Berkeley group.
Sylvia Cranmer spent her childhood in Denver, where she developed a love for nature and the wilderness. She completed a degree in French from Vassar College. In 1948, McLaughlin married UC Berkeley geology professor Donald Hamilton McLaughlin. He was a UC regent appointed by Gov. Earl Warren in 1951 and spent most of his professional career with Homestake Mining Co. of San Francisco, serving as the company’s president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board. He was dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Mining and a professor of mining engineering, and he was a member of the UC Board of Regents for 16 years.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, gifts in honor of Sylvia McLaughlin be made to Citizens for East Shore Parks (www.eastshorepark.org). Donations can also be made to Save The Bay (www.saveSFbay.org/sylvia). Save the Bay is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
About Citizens for East Shore Parks
CESP is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1985 to counter development proposals put forth by Santa Fe Railroad to build large-scale developments on its shoreline properties in Albany and Berkeley. Although a number of people shared the dream of an open shoreline and the idea of a park along the shore, no group existed to advocate for this dream to become reality. Environmentalists from the Citizens for the Albany Shoreline, Emeryville Shoreline Committee, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Save the Bay, and the Sierra Club banded together to form CESP.
Other like-minded environmentalists quickly joined, as did elected and appointed officials who shared the vision of a shoreline park. Over a period of 30 years, area residents and organizations have fought to preserve more than 2,000 acres of open space in one of our nation’s most densely populated urban regions. The mission of CESP is to create a necklace of shoreline parks from the Oakland Estuary to the Carquinez Strait.
Citizens for East Shore Parks | Mail: P.O. Box 6087, Albany, CA 94706 | Ph. 510-524-5000 | www.eastshorepark.org
For further details on McLaughlin’s work, read Creating the Eastshore State Park, by Normal LaForce