|Marsh at Sunnyvale Baylands, Twin Creeks Sports Center in background|
The shoreline of San Francisco Bay includes some of the richest wetlands in the state. There's an incredible variety of life along the shores. The biological productivity of these lands exceeds that of the most productive farmlands. These are fragile and delicate environments. Ironically, they have been some of the most manipulated, abuseds and exploited lands in the area. Marshes were filled in for building construction. Feeder streams were dammed, diked, and channeled. Tidelands were surrounded by levees to form salt evaporation ponds. Sewage from the cities was dumped into the bay. Mountains of trash piled up along the shores of the bay. The southwest shoreline of San Francisco Bay, from Sunnyvale to Palo Alto, is no exception. Here you find landfills, sewage treatment plants, salt ponds, storm channels, and a huge defense/aerospace complex. However in recent years, efforts have been made to restore and rehabilitate some of these areas and provide public access. Landscaped parks have been built on top of former landfills. Salt ponds and sloughs have bccome wildlife refuges. Levee tops have become multi-use trails. The Bay Trail runs through this region, though not continuously yet.
This is a great area for biking. The trails range from
paved city park trails, often crowded with skaters, walkers, and baby strollers,
to lonely dirt levee trails, passing between shorebird-covered sloughs.
There's a mosaic of ponds and sloughs out here, surrounded by a maze of
levee trails. Some of the levee trails are well-marked as public trails.
Some are fenced-off private property posted with "No Trespassing" signs.
Others are somewhat ambiguous. Some public trails aren't clearly marked.
Others may not be officially public trails, but they aren't fenced off
or posted. You really have to be careful around Lockheed and Moffett field.
These are private defense industry and federal lands patrolled by armed
security forces. If in doubt, stick to the trails that have benches, trash
cans, and interpretive signs. Just remember that there's no cover out here.
If you're out where you don't belong, people can see you for miles.
|Bay Trail from Alviso to Sunnyvale Baylands|
The Sunnyvale shoreline starts west of Alviso.
A bike path, part of the Bay Trail, leads to it from Alviso, paralleling
the north side of Hwy 237. To get to it from Alviso, if you happen to be
biking around the Alviso Slough, take Gold Street south, then turn right
on Great America Parkway. The bike path leads off to the right, just before
|Marsh and pond near Baylands Park, 3Com, Bay Trail, Hwy 237 in background|
|Sunnyvale Baylands Park, lawn and playground||Lawn at Baylands, marsh in background|
The paved bike trail eventually runs into the end of the
parking lot of Sunnyvale
Baylands Park. It's located at the end of Lawrence Expressway where
it turns into Caribbean Drive, next to Hwy 237. The park has 70 acres of
developed parkland and 105 acres of wetland preserves.
|Bayland Grove entrance||Boardwalk over marsh at Baylands|
Next to the park is the Twin Creeks Sports Complex, a huge softball park, which justifiably claims to be the "world's finest softball complex." The Bay Trail runs through part of Baylands Park. (Here is a map of the baylands and Bay Trail from Shoreline at Mountain View to Alviso.) Proposed trails will link it to the trails at Shoreline at Mountain View to the west. Currently, trails along Lockheed and Moffett Field properties are off-limits, so there is no continuous off-road trail route between Shoreline at Mountain View and Sunnyvale Baylands, at least not legally. There are levees that run around the salt ponds in these areas. The outer salt ponds are private lands that are used by duck hunters. They aren't fenced off, so it is possible to access them, particularly at the end of the Stevens Creek Trail on the east side of the creek. The levee trails lead out to San Francisco Bay and the banks of the Guadalupe Slough. People do come out here, but don't say I told you it was legal. Other proposed trails will link the Bay Trail at Sunnyvale Baylands to Alviso to the east.
From Sunnyvale Baylands, travel north along 6-lane (but
no bicycle path) Caribbean Drive. Just past the Twin Creeks Sports Complex
is a small creek with trails along both banks. They fall into the ambiguous
category, access-wise. There is a "No Trespassing" water district sign
next to a park sign that says "wildlife area, dogs must be on leash." There's
a gate with a bicycle/pedestrian opening on the north side and (when I
went by it at least), an open gate on the south side. If you take the trail
along the south bank (hypothetically speaking), you would follow along
the back side of Twin Creeks and would eventually come to a new steel pedestrian
bridge over the channel. This appears to be part of the proposed route
of the Bay Trail. A levee trail along the other side runs around a Cargill
Salt Company pond. (Here
is a map and description of the ponds in this area and their accessibility.)
|Sunnyvale Water Treatment Plant ponds||Ponds and channels near Lockheed|
The little creek next to Twin Creeks forms the east boundary of the Sunnyvale landfill. The landfill is still in use, but the lands are part of Sunnyvale Baylands Park. Parts of the landfill have been capped and are accessible by trail. A little ways past the creek along Caribbean Drive is a signed opening in the fence, leading to a gravel path that climbs up to the top of one of the landfill hills, one of the highest points in the area. You get a good view of the salt ponds and bay from here. Unfortunately, you get a good whiff of the nearby sewage treatment plant as well. The path drops swiftly down the hill to the corner of Caribbean Drive and Borregas Avenue. The latter leads to the entrance to the landfill and recycling center on the right, and the sewage treatment and water reclamation plant to the left. If you go to the left and cross over the creek, you'll come to one of the officially accessible areas. Two of the ponds here belong to the Sunnyvale water treatment plant. The trail around them is part of the Bay Trail. The retired landfill hill to the north of the creek has gravel paths leading up and around them. These provide great views of the area (and better-smelling than the hill to the south). From here you can see many of the salt ponds, including the off-limits areas near Lockheed and Moffett Field. A path leads around the north edge of the hill and comes out where Caribbean Drive Curves to the south. Across the marsh is Lockheed property. A proposed addition to the Bay Trail will follow along the Moffett Field Drainage Ditch past Lockheed and Moffett Field. It's not there yet, so to get to the next bayshore area, at least legally, you have to go past Moffett Field to Shoreline at Mountain View.
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Ron Horii, San Jose