The North Basin is the body of water between Cesar Chavez Park and the Berkeley mainland. When I first started going to the park, I had no idea what this water was called, or if it had a name at all. I’m not alone. I’ve talked with expert birders who knew the names of hundreds of birds but weren’t sure about the name of this water. In the handful of years that I’ve been walking in Cesar Chavez Park, I’ve been blown away by the variety of birds that you can see in the North Basin. The things they do — feeding, meeting, fighting, loving, getting along, sleeping — create endless opportunities for observation. I’ve taken hundreds of photos and dozens of videos of birds in the water and on the shore. And I’ve come to care for them. I feel a bit protective. It upsets me when people harass the birds or get careless with their plastic discards. I think the North Basin ought to be a bird sanctuary — a place where the birds get respect and protection. I’m not sure at this point about the legal options or about the path to get there. At this point I just want to call people’s attention to the existence of this place and its charms. That’s why I’ve made this video. It runs just under fifteen minutes. I hope you enjoy it and give thought to the issue it raises.
Here’s a couple of random facts to add to the mix. When the City built the landfill, the designers lined up its northern edge with Gilman Street. Developers contemplated running a causeway across the water to enclose it. Hence the name “Basin.” The thought was to then fill it and develop on it. In the citywide waterfront battles during the 1970s and 80s — see Norman La Force’s history book — priorities changed. Water won out over landfill. Taking the line between the north edge of the park and Gilman Street as the northern boundary, the North Basin occupies approximately 126 acres. Because fresh water from Schoolhouse Creek runs into it, the North Basin is technically an estuary.