State park named for Berkeley environmentalist Sylvia McLaughlin

Robert Cheasty/Courtesy
Sylvia McLaughlin, a local environmental activist, has recently decided to name a local park after

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The California State Park and Recreation Commission has renamed Eastshore State Park in honor of lifelong environmental advocate and 95-year-old Berkeley resident Sylvia McLaughlin.

The renaming of the park to McLaughlin Eastshore State Park is the culmination of a campaign of more than two years headed by Citizens for East Shore Parks, a nonprofit shoreline protection and advocacy organization that McLaughlin helped establish. The commission approved the park’s renaming on Sept. 28 to honor the environmentalist’s decades of service to the Bay Area’s nature conservation and protection.

“I feel extremely honored to have this park named for me,” McLaughlin said. “I hope that it will be a joy for future generations and also hope they will continue to appreciate and guard it.”

Caryl Hart, chair of the California State Park and Recreation Commission, said the park’s renaming is a unique honor — the first renaming the commission has approved since she joined it in 2000.

McLaughlin and the Citizens for East Shore Parks, founded in 1985, worked to establish the park until its eventual founding in 2002, and the group continues to improve and preserve the East Bay shoreline.

McLaughlin has advocated environmental protection in the Bay Area for more than 50 years. In 1961, she co-founded Save the Bay — an organization that works to protect and preserve the San Francisco shoreline — and in 2007, she occupied a tree to protest UC Berkeley’s plans to remove an oak grove to make way for a new athletic facility.

“Sylvia was always our leader and the person who was pushing to make sure we were actually working towards keeping the bay as pristine as possible,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. “She has been a hero of mine and a lot of people for her tenacity and ability to stick with this (project) and create this incredible jewel for us in San Francisco Bay.”

Support for honoring McLaughlin’s work for the Eastshore State Park and the Bay Area was widespread. More than 600 individuals sent letters and signed petitions pledging support of the renaming of Eastshore State Park, according to CESP Executive Director Patricia Jones.

The preserved ribbon of land stretches eight and a half miles along the East Bay shoreline, from the foot of the Bay Bridge in Oakland to Richmond. The five cities that the park spans, including Berkeley, passed resolutions in support of the park’s renaming.

“She’s been like an active commander in this war to protect the environment,” said CESP President Robert Cheasty. “By naming the park after Sylvia, the state is honoring all of the volunteers over the last 50 years who have worked so hard to protect the environment.”

Contact Libby Rainey at [email protected].