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Black Point, Novato
Corte Madera Ecological Reserve


A big thank you to everyone who contributed to our recent acquisition of two and half acres of seasonal wetlands and native oak uplands in the Black Point area of Novato. The $115,000 purchase was completed on October 3, 2018. This property will now be permanently protected in the ownership of Marin Audubon Society.

The habitat includes native oak wooded hillsides and seasonal wetlands. Located near the mouth of the Petaluma River, the site is just inland from Day Island, a preserve owned by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The wetland portion of the property is a swale that extends eastward toward San Pablo Bay. The swale was subject to tidal action until it was diked from the Bay many years ago, and although it still provides seasonal wetland habitat in winter, it is dry during summer months.

The area is known locally as the Gridiron, reflecting the patchwork land division done about a century ago when property here was divided into hundreds of small parcels, some no more than 2,000 square feet in size. These lots were originally given away as rewards for subscriptions to the San Francisco Chronicle or Readers Digest.

Although most of the parcels in the Gridiron are too small to be developed, owners have been assembling and combining groups of the parcels to create buildable sites.

As part of the Campaign for Marin Baylands, Marin Baylands Advocates and Marin Audubon Society have succeeded in acquiring seventeen properties in the area. While a number of these parcels are smaller in size, together they provide habitat for native wildlife and protect valuable wildlife corridors

This new acquisition will now become part of the broader habitat landscape, that includes tidal salt marsh, mudflats, coastal oak woodlands, and coastal scrub habitats. Nearby habitats include Bahia, Black John Slough, Green Point, Novato Creek, Rush Creek, and marshes along the Petaluma River.

The area's upland habitat supports deer, jackrabbits, and foxes, among other wildlife. Migratory birds use the area in fall and winter, but there are many year round resident species as well.

We want to continue acquiring and enhancing habitat at Black Point and other bayland sites. If you would like to partner with us in this effort, please click on "Donate" at the top of the page for more information on how you can help.

Corte Madera Ecological Reserve Expansion

Marin Audubon Society signs deal to buy Corte Madera parcel for open space

Marin Independent Journal By Mark Prado, 6/01/2104 mprado@marinij.com @MarkPradoIJ on Twitter

Marin Audubon Society has signed a contract to purchase a critical 5.2-acre former tidal marsh property along the Corte Madera bayfront that it has eyed for 25 years. The group now has eight months to raise the $1.035 million to buy the land. "If the property is not purchased now, it could be forever lost to development," said Barbara Salzman, Marin Audubon president, who helped orchestrate the deal. The property is located along the Corte Madera bayfront, at the end of Industrial Way, behind the Cost Plus Plaza shopping center. It is owned by Belvedere resident Frank Greene and the Ecumenical Association for Housing. If purchased the land would be restored to tidal marsh by Marin Audubon, then donated to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for long-term protection as part of the roughly 300-acre Corte Madera Ecological Reserve.

Protecting this property is critical because it is surrounded on three sides by the reserve's tidal marsh, Salzman noted. Because it is filled the property can't function as a marsh and provides poor habitat for wildlife. The adjacent marsh supports a large population of the endangered California clapper rails and is one of the few marshes in the bay that has never been diked for farming, industry or potential development. Such older marshes have more complex channel systems and vegetation than newer marshes. "These rare and valuable characteristics will be protected, enhanced and expanded by this acquisition," Salzman said.

The site's historic tidal marsh was filled several times during the last 50 years, most recently in the mid-1980s. A number of development projects have been considered and proposed for the site, which is zoned for office space.

To restore tidal marsh, fill will be removed to lower the land to marsh elevations. Past filling has left the property several feet higher than the adjacent marsh. In addition to re-establishing the marsh, the restoration will create a vegetated upland area where clapper rails can hide from predators and a path where visitors will be able to view the habitat.

The potential acquisition is part of the Campaign for Marin Baylands, a partnership between Marin Audubon Society and Marin Baylands Advocates. The partnership has purchased 15 bayland properties since 1990. Acquisitions include Triangle Marsh along Paradise Drive in Corte Madera and Bahia in Novato. "It's a very important piece of land to acquire since it really completes the Corte Madera Ecological Reserve," said Marge Macris of the baylands group. "It will be an important addition to the natural resources of the county." For more information visit: marinaudubon.org

Marin Audubon Society signs deal to buy and restore Corte Madera parcel

Pacific Sun by Molly Oleson, 6/04,2014

It may be nesting season now for the endangered California clapper rails of Marin County, but when they emerge from their mating and breeding activities, there will be good news to share: one of the places they call home, a marsh along the Corte Madera bayfront, may soon share a border with protected land.

The 5.2-acre private property, which is currently zoned as office space and has been considered for numerous development projects (including a soccer field), is part of a purchase contract signed by the Marin Audubon Society. With the hope of restoring what was once a marsh, leveling the land and protecting wildlife habitat, the society aims to raise the $1.035 million needed to buy the land, over the next eight months. Located behind the Cost Plus Plaza shopping center at the end of Industrial Way, the property is owned by Belvedere resident Frank Greene and the Ecumenical Association for Housing. If purchased, the land would be donated to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for protection as part of the approximately 300-acre Corte Madera Ecological Reserve, after being restored to tidal marsh by the Audubon Society. "It's important," Marin Audobon Society President Barbara Salzman says of protecting the area, "because it has a consistent and high population of endangered species and it's easily restorable." The land, which the society has set its sights on for the last 25 years, has finally become available.

"They weren't willing to sell it to us until recently," Salzman says of the property owners. The land is part of a long history of development in Corte Madera. In the early 80s, the town approved a proposal to build on it, and it was filled in preparation for development. "And then a moratorium on development came along," Salzman says. "I think things changed ... we decided that it wasn't a good thing to be developing this property."

Surrounded on three sides by the Corte Madera Ecological Reserve's tidal marsh, the land currently cannot function as a marsh itself, due to the fact that the filling left it several feet higher than the adjacent marsh. Salzman says that in addition to this poor functionality and thus, poor wildlife habitat, it's being damaged by people who walk across it, and by concrete and debris that have been dumped there.

The potential purchase is part of a partnership between the Marin Audubon Society and Marin Baylands Advocates, called Campaign for Marin Baylands. The society hopes to secure the needed funds through federal grants, foundation grants and private donations. Salzman isn't too worried about this. "We've been successful in our acquisitions," she says. "All of the properties we've been interested in have been acquired by us or by some other entity."

Marin Audubon sets sights on restoring tidal marsh Environmental group raising funds to purchase bayfront property

June 18, 2014 5:41 pm By Soren Hemmila

The Marin Audubon Society is in the process of raising more than one million dollars to purchase a key piece of land located in the Corte Madera bayfront.

The society has plans to restore the 5.2-acre site, located behind the Cost Plus shopping center in Greenbrae. The property is zoned for office use, and several projects have been proposed for the site, said Barbara Salzman, president of the Marin Audubon Society.

"The property will be restored to a tidal marsh while in the temporary ownership of Marin Audubon," Salzman said. "Then, it will be donated to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for long-term protection as part of the Corte Madera Ecological Reserve."

The society has been trying to purchase the property for the last 25 years and inked a contract in May to purchase plot of land for $1,035,000.

"We've applied for grants, although there is not much state money available," Salzman said. "We've applied for a federal grant, but we have no way of knowing whether we are going to get that."

The federal grant requires a 25-percent match, and Marin Audubon will have to raise $300,000. So far the group has raised $25,000-30,000. Salzman said the historic tidal marsh was filled several times during the last 60 years and has left the property several feet higher than the adjacent marsh.

"There was a construction company that was down the street on Industrial Way," Salzman said "They used to come at the end of the day and dump lumber and things like that."

The Audubon found similar material when the marsh was excavated during previous restoration projects.

"The restoration will create a vegetated upland, where clapper rails can hide from predators, and a path where visitors will be able to view the habitats," Salzman said.

Greenbrae resident John Rivard said it was debris from a freeway bridge that was dumped in the marsh during freeway construction in the "60s.

"When they built the freeway, they tore the whole thing down," Rivard said. "It was all concrete with rebar, metal and all sorts of hazardous material. They just dumped it all in here."

Rivard said, over time, nature has taken over the slabs of concrete and bits of rusty metal giving leading to a unique area.

"There were nice little things you could sit on, like old concrete," he said. "There was one I particularly liked that was like an armchair, where you could watch the birds."

Rivard said the marsh would have been nicer if the marsh had been left as it was, but the un-groomed area is unique.

"It is wonderful if you like tranquility," he said. "You can go to some posted trail somewhere, but you get run over by a mountain bike. Here, I can come here with my thoughts."

Greenbrae resident Melinda Lawson, a frequent visitor to the marsh, said she was thrilled when she learned of the purchase.

"This is why I live in a trailer park," Lawson said. "So I can have this as a backyard. It's the whole point to living where I do."

Lawson visits marsh everyday and said even though the pelicans haven't quite arrived and geese are pretty much gone, there are birds in the marsh year-around.

The purchase is part of the Campaign for Marin Baylands, a collaboration between Marin Baylands Advocates and the Marin Audubon Society. The society has seven months to raise the funds for the purchase. Since 1990, the partnership has purchased 15 bayland properties. For more information, visit marinaudubon.org.

Contact Soren Hemmila at shemmila@marinscope.com.

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