A closed chunk of Richmond's north shoreline, with its picturesque views stretching across San Pablo Bay to Marin and Sonoma counties, is about to open to the public for the first time.
After nearly 20 years of planning and waiting, the four-mile Landfill Loop Trail opens to pedestrians, hikers, bicyclists and bird-watchers as part of the San Francisco Bay Trail.
"This really represents the first opening of public access to Richmond's north shoreline," said Bruce Beyaert, chair of the Trails for Richmond Action Committee, which lobbies and seeks funds to close local trail gaps. "It opens up a new mile of access to San Pablo Bay."
It also brings the tally of completed Bay Trail in Richmond to 30 miles, Beyaert said. That's about 10 percent of the 310 miles of trail completed so far in the nine-county Bay Trail system that will ultimately grow to a 500-mile network.
Supporters will celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Republic Services, which owns the landfill site, built the path and funded its six interpretive exhibits. The company will be in charge of maintaining it. The East Bay Regional Park District plans to build a one-mile trail in the future that would connect the Landfill Loop Trail to the Wildcat Creek Trail.
The idea for the loop trail dates back to 1992 when Jay Vincent, an advocate for open space and public access, attended a meeting about the landfill and suggested building a trail
It would be years though before the trail would become reality. Officials wanted to close the landfill first for safety reasons. Getting the proper permits, conducting studies, securing the pipes and wells on site, and capping the landfill took longer than expected, Burch said.
"For people who wanted a trail at the landfill, the key word here is patience," Burch said. "There were times we thought it was just a while longer, but it took longer to achieve the permits and close the landfill" than thought.
Republic Services finished sealing off the landfill last year, paving the way for the loop trail.
"It's providing a viewing location across the bay on a trail that has never been available before," Burch said. "You can see some of the same vistas from Point Pinole, but you can get higher on the landfill hill and get a different perspective."
Locals also will see tidal marshes and ample bird life. The mud flats and wetlands along the North Richmond shoreline boasts about 138,000 birds comprising 93 species, including pelicans and the red-tailed hawk, according to a Golden Gate Audubon census from August 2007 to September 2008. At the Landfill Loop, they counted 58,935 birds composed of 69 species, including the endangered California Clapper Rail.
While the landfill is no longer active, the site is far from dormant. A transfer station sorts waste and trucks it to regional landfills. A power plant uses methane collected from the landfill to generate electricity. A composting farm turns yard waste into soil supplements. A recycling center handles construction and demolition leftovers.
The trail is the distance of two or three blocks from these operations. A fence will keep people out of areas where they shouldn't be, Burch said.