It Lights Up My Life: Save the Albany Bulb


by Sasha Futran


This is a call to arms. Charge your cell phones. Turn on your computers. Get out your calendars, and put on comfortable going-to-meetin' clothes. Follow the yellow brick road to Mad Mark's castle. You are needed to save that glorious garbage dump again.


Yes, dump. Well, perhaps more accurately, a highly prized, much fought-over landfill that is shaped like a light bulb. It is my favorite place for off-leash outings, and once again government agencies are meeting and the likely outcome is leashed dogs.


Dogs love the Albany Bulb. It may be a landfill, but it is also the last piece of local wilderness, a place where dogs can truly explore rather than walking back and forth on an unchanging path. They love its many paths that twist and turn. They love the surprises - the rocks, rebar, and sudden tiny slopes to climb up or over, under or around. There's also a beach, with white dunes and hard-packed sand, that doesn't turn to sludge in low tide.


The Bulb changes, not only with the seasons, but also when someone has just visited with a paintbrush. In the past few weeks, I've seen a mobile of plastic carrots, apples, and Valentine's hearts dangling from a tree. I've chatted with an artist carving a dolphin from a giant piece of Styrofoam. I've watched the hundred ladybugs someone painted on a trail of stones and pebbles wear away. The murals are still in attendance, and there is always Mark's castle to visit, but the art is threatened, as well.


I've never seen a dog fight at the Bulb or heard an argument over dogs. As a trainer, sometimes I go there and work with dogs that are timid or anxious exactly because those dogs won't be overwhelmed. There is space for everyone, and the other dogs are simply having too much fun.


You can see people riding bikes, jogging, hiking, fishing, or picnicking with their children. The Albany Bulb is the essence of the Bay Area: an ever-changing place for a diverse group of people who have made it their own.


So if it works so well, why would anyone want to change it?


The problem is called the Eastshore State Park, a dandy plan for creating a recreational area along the bay from Oakland to Richmond that would be managed by the East Bay Regional Park District. Around the time that we entered a new millennium, various government agencies began to meet to decide what to do with the Albany Bulb and beach.


By December 2002, it was all over. We had lost. Dogs were to be leashed, and the art was to be removed. We didn't actually worry too much because the city of Albany was ordered to do an expensive environmental cleanup before the land could become part of the park, and Albany was broke. Signs did go up saying that dogs were to be leashed, but no one ever paid any attention. In only a few hours, the notices were mysteriously and artistically were altered to proffer the opposite message. Did I mention that there is an anarchistic heart and soul to the place?


Just a few weeks ago, the state decided there is no need for an environmental cleanup. At some point soon, off-leash dogs really will be banned, and the art will be destroyed. During the heyday of the last political skirmish, an alliance of artists and dog lovers called Let It Be! gathered over 5,000 signatures on petitions and brought hundreds of people to meetings and public hearings. Let It Be! is revving up once again and needs help. So why don't you and your dogs check out the Bulb located just north of the Albany race track? See if you don't agree that it is a doggone great place just the way it is.



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