Location and hours:
Crown Memorial State Beach is on the San Francisco Bay-facing shore of Alameda Island, just to the south of Oakland. State Beach gates are open 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. The Visitor's Center at Crab Cove hours are 10 a.m. ? 4:30 Wed.- Sun. (currently open only in the summer). Crab Cove and the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary are free. There is a parking fee in the Main Lot when the entry booth is manned and at the Visitor's Center. For more information: 510-521-6887 or http://www.ebparks.org/parks/crown.htm.
How to get there:
From the 980 freeway in Oakland, exit at Broadway and follow signs to Alameda. Emerging from the tunnel, follow Webster to its end, about 1 mile. For Crab Cove turn right. The Park's main entry and parking lot is to the left off Westline Drive; Westline is reached via Eighth Street. Blue spaces are available in the Crab Cove and Main Beach parking lots. The bird sanctuary has street parking and one blue space.
Old, undersized but accessible restrooms at the Visitor's Center. Modern, spacious accessible stalls at Main Beach
Just offshore from Oakland, the island of Alameda is a retreat from the hustle of the Bay Area. At the turn of the century, San Franciscans were attracted to Alameda's natural beaches and dunes. Development in the 1960s and 1970s forever altered the landscape, but thankfully two and a half miles of beaches, tide pools and dunes were preserved for public use, and a bird sanctuary was created at the eastern end. Together, they make Crown Memorial State Beach a wonderful place for a nature walk or a picnic.
Wheelchair access is very easy since flat paved trails run from the tide pools at the west end all the way across the beaches and dunes to the bird sanctuary at the east end. There is even a concrete ramp running down into the tide pools; the base of the ramp is submerged at high tide. The water is shallow and calm; easy to play or swim in if you can traverse the deep sand to reach it.
Crown Memorial Beach has three main areas: Crab Cove at the west end, a large main beach in the center, and a two-mile trail along sand dunes and the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary at the east end. Crab Cove has a lot to offer. The Visitor's Center has an exhibit on Bay ecology with a 700-gallon tank of local marine life, excellent books and field guides for purchase, and numerous programs open to the public. (Call ahead to see what's coming up.) Crab Cove itself is a horseshoe-shaped area rimmed by tide pools full of barnacles and crabs. High tide attracts sea birds such as loons, grebes and pelicans. Low tide attracts shorebirds too that feed in the exposed mudflats. A ramp down to the tide pools makes this area accessible; it is just south of the Visitor's Center. Please do not collect the wildlife or their habitat, not even the shells?this is a protected area. Crab Cove also has large grassy picnic areas, barbeques, and moderately accessible restrooms. From here, it's an easy 1/4-mile walk to the main beach, and 2.5 miles to the bird sanctuary. The trail is a segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail and is open to bikes and wheel-chairs.
The main entrance to the State Beach is located at good central location. There is more parking here than at Crab Cove, and the restrooms are more modern. The beach is surprisingly broad, and there are plenty of picnic and barbeque areas on the grass. Unfortunately, there are no paved trails across the sand to the water, and beach wheelchairs are not available. The Elsie Romer Bird Sanctuary is at the east end of the beach on Shoreline Drive at Broadway. You can walk there from the main beach, or drive down and park on the street. There are paved trails and boardwalk overlooks to enjoy, but no restroom facilities.
Alameda is a popular place for families because of the shallow water and the programs at Crab Cove. In the summer months, the West Alameda Business Association traditionally hosts evening concerts at the Cove. They are free and fun for people of all ages. Call the information number above for a schedule. Then pack your picnic basket and come to Alameda!
Elisa Mikiten is co-author of A Wheelchair Rider's Guide to Los Angeles and Orange County Beaches, which is available free of charge from the California Coastal Conservancy and Coastwalk in print and on-line. Photo: Karen Nierlich