Fred Casanares got to Point Pinole Park a little before 8 a.m. on Saturday. He fired up the grill at 10 a.m. with almond wood, because it burns cleaner than charcoal.
For the next five hours, Casanares cooked hundreds of pounds of burgers, hot dogs, quesadillas, and skirt steak, while smoke wafted around the festival and the persistent long lines in front of the grill.
“I can’t even calculate how many people I’ve fed,” he said, wiping the trails of sweat of his forehead with the back of his hand. “It’s got to be over 600.”
If he had fed everyone at the Shoreline Festival at Point Pinole, he would have had to double that – about 1,200 people gathered for the seventh annual event, said Andrés Soto, the festival coordinator.
“The idea is to celebrate the north shoreline and to educate people about the ecology of the shoreline, the frugality of it and the need to protect it,” Soto said.
Richmond has some of the last undeveloped shoreline in the Bay Area at Point Pinole Regional Park and Soto is fighting to expand the protected area south.
Right now, the Richmond Development Corporation and two families own the land just south of the gun club below Point Pinole.
The region is in a light industrial zone and one of the most disputed issues in the city’s General Plan update is a proposal to rezone the area as recreational open space, Soto said.
The property owners are against the rezoning because it would bring the property value down. The East Bay Regional Park District can take the property via eminent domain but would have to pay fair market value for it, and buying property in an industrial zone would be millions of dollars more expensive than buying the same piece of property in a recreational zone.
“An area like the north shoreline truly needs to be protected and some would have us develop it,” Mayor Gayle McLaughin said. “That to me is an atrocity.”
Organizing the community to help protect against unnecessary development is a mission of the Shoreline Festival, said Whitney Dotson, a member of the Board of Directors of Citizens for East Shore Parks and organizer of the event.
A spectrum of people of all ages and from Richmond and neighboring communities spent all day at the festival, listening to live bluegrass and eating barbeque.
Linda Blackmon, a Parchester resident for 60 years, has been going to Point Pinole Park since she was a child.
Back then trees densely blanketed the area from the Giant Highway down to the shoreline. It was all trees, Blackmon remembered. She said she doesn’t like the creeping industry and the destruction of the natural state of the park.
Even young community members, like 16-year-old Anthony Holly, expressed grief about the state of the park. “The trash is pitiful, it’s ghetto,” said Holly, who uses the park to walk, chill and enjoy the fresh air a few times a week with his friends.
Despite the gravity of the concerns, the Shoreline Festival is a celebration and people were enjoying the cloudless day.
Ten-year-old girl scouts instructed festival goers on the construction of pinecone birdfeeders while a small, wooden train trolleyed ecstatic toddlers in little circles.
There were tug-of-war battles, potato sack races and a fishing competition on the docks.
Multiple booths, including The Sierra Club and EcoVillage Farms gave out free plants, like oak trees, Swiss chard, mustard greens and broccoli. The organizers distributed about 200 bicycle helmets, Andres Soto said.