Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Kayaking the Water Trail with Galli Basson - Aug. 2013

Kayaking in Oakland with Galli Basson
August 6, 2013

I can think of no better person to talk about the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail than Water Trail Planner, Galli Basson. We kayaked together in Oakland and discussed the Water Trail. We started at California Canoe and Kayak (in Jack London Square) and headed south, paddling around Coast Guard Island and back. Thank you Galli for the helpful updates and kayak tips.

WTS: Tell me about Galli Basson, and how you came to be working on the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail?

GB: My background is in biology; I have a masters degree in Environmental Studies, and did research on the Bay. Previously, I worked as an open space planner, and I really liked planning trails.

I was attracted to the Water Trail because it was new and cutting edge. I was drawn to the opportunity to be creative and shape something new.

WTS: What is the SF Bay Area Water Trail, and what inspired the concept?

GB: Sometimes it's hard to describe. I tell people the Water Trail (WT) is a network of sites around the Bay where people in non-motorized small boats can access the Bay. It's not necessarily linear; people can go in any direction. It supports a wide variety of crafts and experiences -- from mild to wild.

The WT is also about information - about getting information to people about the sites, safety, about wildlife, and about connecting people to each other, to clubs and outfitters.

It started with a group of human-powered boaters representing all kinds of crafts: wind surfers, kayakers, all types. They saw they were losing access to sites due to development or just due to deterioration. So they banded together, and they realized a comprehensive approach was what was needed to save access; and they formed a non-profit called Bay Access.

Bay Access is still active, and involved with implementation.

Long term, the WT will continue to benefit from continuing involvement of a non-profit, especially when it comes to developing stewardship programs.

WTS: How do I find the Water Trail, and is it designed for different types of boats?

GB: Right now the best way to find it is to go to the Water Trail website. We have information on classes, where you can rent craft, all the different clubs and recreation programs, safety, wildlife you can see, and of course the sites we have designated.

And, yes, the WT has been designed to support multiple types of boats.

Soon, you'll be able to find our (Water Trail) signs at the launch sites. And eventually we'll have a paddle-friendly lodging network, as well as a stewardship program for people who are interested in getting involved.

WTS: What is your favorite, or personal, water craft of choice?

GB: My husband and I own kayaks and we've had a ball exploring the Bay. I love being out on the water. But, one of my goals is to try all the different boat types.

WTS: What advice do you have for those wanting to explore the Water Trail?

GB: I would suggest that people take classes, join a club, or go on a guided tour the first time. There's a lot to learn before going out on the Bay, about currents, weather, tides, cold water, and boating around other vessels. But there are ways to do it safely and you can learn the skills. There are some very family friendly locations on the Bay and there are some more wild locations on the Bay.

(Editors note: Certain "friendly" sites may become more challenging with changes in the weather. But, qualitative descriptions of sites provide a good starting point.)

WTS: What has surprised or delighted you most about this project? What are the biggest misconceptions people have about the Water Trail?

GB: What surprises me is how diverse the Bay is and how many world class experiences can be had so close to home.

A common misconception about the WT is that we will build these access sites. Many of these sites are existing sites; and our job is not to build the trail but instead to improve the facilities, provide information to the public, foster partnerships, and participate in regional planning of access to the Bay.