Book Review: Living Landscape: Rise of the East Bay Regional Park District
by Laura McCreery, Wilderness Press, 2010, 136 pages, $24.95
Readers of Bay Nature probably know that the East Bay Regional Park District is a remarkable institution. The nation’s oldest and largest regional park district, it was born in the Great Depression, when voters chose to tax themselves for the sake of open space. The district scored similar victories in 1988 and 2009, when voters approved several decades of funding for new parks and open spaces. This book, published on the occasion of the district’s 75th anniversary, tells less of the 1930s origin story and more of the recent history, covering sometimes harrowing political and managerial struggles to chart the park district’s future, such as the dramatic bond measure effort in 1988, when then-Assistant General Manager Janet Cobb actually mortgaged her own home to help pay for the campaign. Or the internal debate whether to take on management of Eastshore State Park, which some saw as a too-complicated tangle of degraded shoreline, urban problems, and conflicting jurisdictions. The district did take it on, and it has become a rich combination of habitat restoration and recreational facilities within reach of millions of people.