In the shadow of Albany Hill lurks the Albany Bulb. From the air, the Bulb resembles a dragon wearing a cap, the head perched atop a slender neck, its body vaguely birdlike, the wings folded with a long tail extending behind its emerald belly. Albany Hill has been a feature of the landscape for thousands of years, but the Bulb’s creation is a modern-day fable of human’s changing relationship with the natural environment.
Albany Bulb emerged between 1947-1987 from assorted human discards: trash from the City of Albany’s inhabitants they were no longer allowed to burn, debris from city and railroad construction projects, and even unwanted garden plants. This was typical of how the San Francisco Bay was seen by residents at the time–a conveniently located sewer/landfill. This began changing in 1961, when Save the Bay was formed by Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick in response to plans to fill in 90% of the remaining Bay waters. During the next two decades, sustained citizen activism culminated in a 1987 settlement designating the Albany Bulb as part of the Eastshore State Park, now known as McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.
Protected from further dumping and development, an interesting ecology has emerged on the Bulb. Myriad plant species, both native and non-native have flourished and largely hidden the piles of concrete and other debris that form the bulb’s bedrock. Over the years, animals of many species and orders have made their home here, including many humans. Dogs, more or less accompanied by their people roam freely, sniffing out buried treasure. A group of plein-air artists, named the SNIFF collective, have created arresting sculptures using raw materials quarried from the slag heaps.
Today, hikers, bikers, kayakers, birdwatchers and other nature lovers have joined the potpourri of living things at the Bulb. The Watershed Project has been a part of the mix for the past 7 years, co-hosting shoreline cleanups with the City of Albany twice a year and organizing Earth Day celebrations. This coming April 18, join us on Earth Day for our bi-annual cleanup and help us create a “Juice Box Monster” to raise awareness of the impacts of human consumption and our waste products. The “monster” will be assembled on site, using juice boxes collected by school children where The Watershed Project has been teaching lessons on reducing Marine Debris and our waste footprint.
The juice box is an icon of the allure of convenience packaging, the source of much of today’s trash. It’s unbreakable, colorful, and sterile. It also can’t be composted or recycled, and the plastic straw can easily be blown into a storm drain to become part of the oceanic trash gyres. On Earth Day we invite you to join us in thinking outside of the (juice) box about reducing our trash footprint. What better place to reflect on this topic than the Bulb, where the waste beneath our feet has been transformed into poignant works of art and an adopted homeland for a host of plants and animals.