Francisco Avila set up his picnic tent just as the sun rose above Point Molate Beach Park Saturday morning.
It’s been over 10 years since he last enjoyed the background of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and listened to waves splashing along the shoreline bluff. He was preparing for a family cookout– the grill was filled with ribs, chicken and pork chops and tables were lined with all the fixings. Avila pointed to the rustic tracks and reminisced about the kiddie train that once circled the park during its heyday.
“We grew up here and being back just feels like home,” he said. “Being here gets you in tune with nature, and the view is just gorgeous.”
Cars slowly filed into Point Molate on its reopening weekend, more than a decade after budgetary woes forced city officials to close its gates. Point Molate was once a naval fueling depot before it was converted to a park in the 1960s.
“The reopening was vital and shows they are reinvesting in the community,” Avila said. “We need quality recreational alternatives and this is one of them.”
The city spent $115,000 on minor improvements to the park to meet public safety and ADA requirements. The area has new picnic tables, barbeque pits, portable restrooms, landscaping and a newly paved parking lot. Workers have cleared plants to improve sight lines, allowing for better policing.
“It was too nice to have it closed,” said Chris Chamberlain, the city parks and landscape superintendent. “It provides opportunity to get out and see the water and enjoy the nature beauty of Mt. Tamalpais. It’s right here in our backyard and every kid should have the opportunity to go out there and kick rocks and just enjoy nature.”
The park remained in decent shape while it was closed, and the property was mowed regularly Chamberlain said. Grassroots organizations like Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate and the Waterhshed Project, among others, rallied for the park’s reopening and sponsored shoreline cleanups.
The city council allocated a portion of the settlement received from the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill to fund the park improvements. Council members approved the park’s reopening earlier this year.
Charles Smith gathered at the gate at sunrise when Point Molate reopened last Monday.
“It was nothing short of exhilarating,” he wrote in an email. Smith is one of the founding members of Citizens for a sustainable Point Molate, an organization formed to save the area from a Las Vegas style resort plan for the area. The council nixed the plans for the $1.2 billion gaming resort in 2011.
Tarnel Abbott enjoys sitting on the shore painting or reading a book with her dog Ruby by her side. The Richmond resident, who has childhood memories of Point Molate, said she plans to visit regularly.
“Richmond is such an urban area and we have parks, but not many where you can experience nature,” she said.
“It’s a soothing experience where you can connect with nature and relax and listen to the waves,” Abbott added. “It brings back a lot of feelings of my childhood and I’m just delighted it’s reopened.”