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Shoreline Festival

North Richmond Shoreline Festival attracts, educates families

on October 5, 2015

Families braved a chilly wind billowing across the bay Saturday to learn about nature conservation at the 12th annual North Richmond Shoreline Festival.

The free event, held at the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park in north Richmond, included pony rides, concerts and informational booths. Organizers said they hope the festival, which attracted more than 1,000 visitors, will help Richmond residents better appreciate how their everyday actions affect the shoreline.

“We want people in Richmond to think carefully about what they’re throwing down the toilet,” said Liza Dadiomov, the Watershed Project’s education coordinator, a nonprofit that helped organize the event along with the recent coastal cleanup of the city’s shoreline.

According to Dadiomov, the pristine stretch of shoreline along Point Pinole has become endangered because many residents in Richmond flush trash down their toilets. Some types of waste, such as prescription pharmaceuticals, which local wastewater treatment facilities are unequipped to handle, are especially bad for the bay.

Although the results of dumping trash down the toilet were once largely invisible, many residents in Richmond now experience the effects closer to home.

“People often flush leftover food and grease down the toilet for years,” said Mark Bish of the West County Wastewater District, “and then after one good fiber-filled morning the pipes back up and it’s not a pretty sight.”

Bish said he collected more than 250 signatures Saturday from people pledging to flush only “pee, poo and paper” down the toilet. The West County Wastewater District in Richmond frequently receives trash ranging from condoms to toy trucks, Bish said, which somehow makes it to treatment facilities.

Despite the educational intent of Saturday’s event, many of those who attended said they came out just to enjoy some fresh air and a free lunch by the bay. Maria Garcia, a Mexican immigrant from the state of Michoacán, said she learned what plants fare best during California’s drought while her children got their faces painted.

“My kids have already been here for two hours,” Garcia said in her native Spanish, “and they still don’t want to leave.”

Point Pinole juts out into a stretch of waterfront accented by whitecaps churned by the wind ripping over San Francisco Bay. Trails cut through parched fields shaded by eucalyptus groves where people come to walk, cycle and ride horses. The park’s beaches provide views of the Marin shoreline across the bay.

The pier in Point Pinole Park is a popular fishing spot, partly because no state fishing license is needed. The only trouble is that many of the fish caught off Point Pinole have high levels of mercury and other chemicals that make the fish unsafe to eat, according to Trent Pearce, a naturalist with the Tilden Nature Area.

Pearce stood by an aquarium almost as tall as he was full of catfish, carp and smallmouth bass, all of which are endemic to the area. Sunlight filtering through the aquarium danced on the faces of smiling children as Pearce handed out pamphlets to their parents explaining which fish species were safe to eat. Research suggests that eating fish at the top of the food chain, like striped bass and sturgeon, can inhibit brain development in children.

Many Latino and Asian families, part of Richmond’s growing immigrant community, fish from the pier to save money on groceries. Pearce came to the park Saturday hoping to deter pregnant women and children from eating certain types of fish.

“I’ve spoken with a lot of mothers while their kids look at the aquarium,” Pearce said. “These are the people we’re trying to reach today.”

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