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A few buildings remain on the site of the proposed 170-acre Gateway Park in Oakland, Calif. on Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- Forget about a giant Ferris wheel or gondola car ride in the emerging plan for a big new park by the Bay Bridge -- a new gateway to the East Bay and its shoreline.

Those ride suggestions have been cut out, but still in the running for the park are a fishing pier, concert meadow, a zip line, rock climbing wall, tide pool viewing areas, kayak and sail board launch sites, a boardwalk, sandy beaches and picnic tables.

And 300 parking spaces would be provided for motorists to park before starting walking or cycling trips on the popular new path on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

Also under consideration are a warming hut and small cafe, large-scale public art sculptures and a large planting of evergreen trees to provide scenic accents to the park adjacent to the Bay Bridge.

Planning for the 170-acre Gateway Park remains a work in progress, but the concepts are coming into focus as environmental review begins on the options for the old Oakland Army Base site.

"We want the park to make a bold statement about this being a gateway to the Oakland and East Bay shoreline," said Peter Lee, the Bay Area Toll Authority manager for the Gateway Park project. "There are many details to be worked out, including finding the funding and identifying an operator."

The toll authority, East Bay Regional Park District, city and Port of Oakland, Caltrans and four other agencies are jointly working on a park plan.

Planners say they want the park to connect the public to the shoreline and provide a scenic East Bay entrance for the 240,000 motorists who drive the bridge daily.

Previous estimates suggested the park could cost as much as $174 million, although planners say they expect a lower cost.

Construction would begin around 2016, and the project likely would be developed in phases over several years as government funds and grants or private support become available.

The anchor to the future Gateway Park debuted in early September when a new walking and cycling path opened as part of the $6.4 billion new east span of the Bay Bridge. Thousands of people use the path each weekend.

Now the question is: What else should go in the park?

Earlier suggestions of a giant Ferris wheel or gondola to offer dramatic views were dropped because of high costs and lukewarm public reaction, park planners said. Some form of elevated structure still might be pursued, they added.

"We're trying to find the right balance between active and more passive recreation, and what our stakeholders can afford," Lee said.

At the west end of the park where bikers and walkers would enter and leave the bridge path, a 300-foot-long fishing pier could be developed on piers left over from the old eastern span of the bridge.

Tide pools for viewing aquatic life could be created. A trail leading under the Bay Bridge also could be created, leading to Radio Beach on the north side of the bridge. Creating that trail, however, would require filling some wetland areas to provide land.

Some existing buildings at the west end of the park could be converted into artist studios, art exhibition areas or a warming hut for visitors, said Sarah Kuehl, a landscape architect working on the project.

Elsewhere in the park, large metal pieces from the old Bay Bridge might be salvaged and displayed along trails, Kuehl added.

John Sutter, the East Bay Regional Park District board president, said the park provides exciting new recreation opportunities for the largely industrial Oakland shoreline, even if it's too early to say who would operate it. "It has great potential," he said

Ray Kidd, a West Oakland resident, said he thinks the park plan needs to have more attractions to draw visitors -- including a dog park. Park planners said there is no reason to exclude a dog park.

Dave Campbell of the East Bay Bike Coalition said he likes a proposal for an elevated bike path to the park that would be above the heavy truck traffic to and from the Port of Oakland.

"An elevated path will make it much safer for cyclists to reach this wonderful new trail on the bridge," he said.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.

PROPOSED GATEWAY PARK
Where: On a strip of 170 acres near the Oakland touchdown for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
Goal: Provide a distinct entry to the East Bay shoreline and connect to the bicycle and pedestrian path on the eastern span.
Next steps: Public comments are due Dec. 6 on issues to be covered in a project environmental report. A public hearing on the draft report will be in October 2014. Selection of a project plan would be in December 2014. Construction could begin in 2016.
More information: www.baybridgegatewaypark.org
Project planning partners: Bay Area Toll Authority, East Bay Regional Park District, Caltrans, Port of Oakland, city of Oakland, Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Association of Bay Area Governments, East Bay Municipal Utility District and California Transportation Commission.