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September 1, 2019

Point Isabel, the single busiest spot in the entire East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), is famously peaceable and self-policing. With nearly 1.5 million human visitors and probably that many dogs every year, though, incidents do happen. Here are tips on how to respond.

FIRST, don’t escalate. If a person is a jerk or a dog is a nuisance, walk away. If someone doesn’t clean up after a dog or lets it dig, feel free to remind them what the rules are and leave it at that.

SECOND, know how to get help or report problems. Carry these numbers:

911:  Medical or public safety emergency, park visitor acting belligerent or windsurfer in trouble

Contra Costa County (CoCoCo) Animal Services (925-608-8400):  Stray dog, person bitten by a dog, serious dog-on-dog injury. (In addition, report dog bites to EBRPD Dispatch.)

EBRPD Dispatch (510-881-1833):  Car break-in, person bitten by a dog, serious dog-on-dog injury, chronic bad behavior by park user or dog. (In addition, report dog bites to CoCoCo Anim...

May 1, 2019

The worst-kept secret at the park this winter was the burrowing owl camouflaged among the granite boulders on North Point Isabel. Sharp-eyed park visitors first spotted the tiny bird near the end of October.

Burrowing owls can stand 10 inches tall, weigh up to six ounces, and live eight years. Until relatively recently, not very much was known about them. Ours was an adult. Then, depending on which theory you subscribe to, it was either a bachelor wintering along  the shoreline before flying to the Central Valley to mate or a female killing time for six or seven months before heading to Idaho. 

It may have chosen Point Isabel because there are few bigger owls, hawks, or feral cats. Perhaps it appreciated having its choice of gopher holes to commandeer. These cunning birds are known to leave scat lying around to attract dung beetles, and maybe it just felt it had hit the jackpot when it found Point Isabel.

Settling at a big off-leash park may seem unusual, but burrowing owls can be fo...

May 1, 2018

This Spring, East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) repaired some erosion on North Point Isabel (PI), the half of Point Isabel Regional Shoreline reached by the pedestrian bridge near Rydin Road. It is also installing a mesh fence along Hoffman Channel on that side to prevent erosion of the bank and keep people and dogs off dangerous boulders.

Both sides of the park are former dumps capped with several feet of clay. North PI is in a category of its own, however. Decades ago, it was a dumping ground for “lead-acid storage battery casings” and “other unspecified fill material,” according to a 1986 report by the California Water Quality Control Board. At least one park user still remembers clambering about back then on what appeared to be old car batteries along the edge of the mudflat.

Legend has it that North PI was a Superfund site, but that appears to be not true. However, the land owner, Santa Fe Land Improvement Company, was required to haul away tons of soil that was contaminated wi...

December 26, 2017

They may never see the more exotic wildlife, such as the endangered salt marsh harvest mice in Hoffman Marsh, but many visitors to Point Isabel (PI) are familiar with several common creatures.

People often encounter skunks near the bridge at dusk and whole skunk families have been seen in the field across from Mudpuppy’s. These mild, pretty creatures have poor eyesight, are omnivorous and nocturnal, and live up to four years. When threatened, they can spray a noxious fluid up to 10 feet from their anal glands. They can also carry rabies. Just give them space; if you see one, grab your dog and go the other way.

The squat little mammals with big front teeth whose burrows perforate Point Isabel are pocket gophers. They eat plants, are loners except when breeding or nursing, and can live for three years. Other PI rodents include ground squirrels and tree squirrels, the East Bay’s ubiquitous rats, and possibly the occasional mouse or vole.

Rattlesnakes prefer the hills and inlands, but PI has...

July 25, 2017

A local dog advocacy group sponsored by Point Isabel Dog Owners (PIDO) was recently awarded a grant to help remove toxic microplastics on Albany Beach, a mile south of Point Isabel.

PIDO has a history of more than 30 years of parks stewardship and off-leash activism. In 2014, it became the fiscal sponsor for Albany Landfill Dog Owners Group (ALDOG), which has a similar mission.

ALDOG advocates for responsible off-leash recreation on Albany Beach and plays an important role in keeping the beach clean. As a California Coastal Commission adopter of Albany Beach, it coordinates three cleanups every year, in collaboration with East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and others. Over the past four years, cleanup volunteers have removed more than 4,500 pounds of trash.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Alameda Countywide Clean Water Program (ACCWP), ALDOG plans to deep-clean the beach by sifting tiny microplastics out of the sand.

Plastics are well known to trap and poison birds and sea creatures....

May 1, 2017

Many Point Isabel (PI) regulars know Jerry Yukic by sight. A tall, determined-looking woman in her 90s, she can be seen many mornings – accompanied by her Brittany Spaniel, Dusty – enjoying a coffee at the Sit and Stay Café. But few know Jerry’s fascinating backstory:  Olympics hopeful, tireless advocate for girls’ sports, author of several thrillers available on Amazon, and longtime dog-walking activist who has helped keep PI off-leash for the past 30 years.

She was born Eleanor Clarke – her family nicknamed her “Jerry” – in Anaheim, California, when the future home of Disneyland had just 5,000 residents.  She went to high school in Santa Monica, reveling in beach volleyball and ocean swimming after classes. She was a star swimmer at UCLA, although her hopes of competing at breaststroke in the Olympic Games were dashed by World War II. Her future husband was a prisoner of war in Germany for some time; he and Jerry met when they were both earning master’s degrees in education at UC Berk...

April 16, 2016

The tawny California landscape from early summer through October is one reason we love the Golden State. Among all those waving, sun-kissed stalks, however, lurks a dog-killer known as the foxtail.

Foxtails are the awns (or seed heads) of various kinds of wild barley. They are the scourge of gardens, open space, and much of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), including Point Isabel.

The pointy, razor-sharp foxtail is designed to burrow into the ground. This clever plant-dispersal mechanism wreaks havoc with mammals and even birds, however. First, the bristly spikelet sticks to some creature that passes by. Second, the sharp point works its way under the animal’s skin. Third, tiny barbs propel the awn forward as the hapless host moves.  

The results can be horrifying. Foxtails blind dogs, pierce their eardrums, cause huge abscesses, and penetrate lungs and brains. It’s common for a foxtail to meander undetected throughout a dog’s body, leaving a trail of infection in its wake. One...

November 17, 2015

It’s not everywhere you can sip Catahoula Coffee and gaze at a world-famous bridge while someone else washes your dog.

And it gets better:  Every latte or oatmeal shampoo actually helps support our regional parks in a small way, because Mudpuppy’s Tub & Scrub and Sit & Stay Café are East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) concessions. As part of its operating agreement, every EBRPD concession returns some of its revenues to the park district.

Of course, both businesses – collectively and affectionately known to most just as “Mudpuppy’s” – are more than concessions. They’re an integral part of the Point Isabel (PI) experience and community. For years, they have delighted the hordes with service and solace, seven-days-a-week.

The popular café is one of several EBRPD concessions that serve food. The dog wash, though, is unique to PI – and an uncommon perk among public parks anywhere. The original dog-washing outfit at PI was a mobile venture run by two women entrepreneurs who bathed cani...

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Nine Ways to Fight Foxtails

April 16, 2016

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