Fleet Week’s a re­minder of ways to take care of San Fran­cisco Bay

The Mercury News Weekend - - OPINION - By David Lewis David Lewis is ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Save the Bay.

The Bay gives us dra­matic scenery, nour­ishes our wildlife and mod­er­ates our weather. We shouldn’t take the Bay for granted but­most of us do. So this week­end we also cel­e­brate the sec­ond an­nual BayDay, anof­fi­cial hol­i­day de­clared by 40 Bay Area cities and coun­ties to honor this mag­nif­i­cent place we call home.

This week, the Bay Area is again the place for out­door cel­e­bra­tions large and small.

Tens of thou­sands will cheer at the Cal-UCLA game, honor our mil­i­tary dur­ing Fleet Week on the Em­bar­cadero, or rock out at Hardly Strictly Blue­grass in Golden Gate Park. Hundreds will race by foot, bike or sail­boat and many more will hike Mount Di­ablo or Mis­sion Peak.

Out­door events draw mil­lions of res­i­dents and tourists to the Bay Area each year, part of the $9.7 bil­lion in an­nual visi­tor spend­ing that is a huge en­gine for our econ­omy.

And San Fran­cisco Bay is the cen­ter of it all, our great nat­u­ral trea­sure in a dy­namic me­trop­o­lis.

The Bay gives us dra­matic scenery, nour­ishes our wildlife and mod­er­ates our weather. We shouldn’t take the Bay for granted but most of us do. So this week­end we also cel­e­brate the sec­ond an­nual Bay Day, an of­fi­cial hol­i­day de­clared by 40 Bay Area cities and coun­ties to honor this mag­nif­i­cent place we call home. Bay Day fea­tures free shore­line events for ev- ery­one on Satur­day, from Jack Lon­don Square to An­gel Is­land, and be­yond.

Na­ture and open space make our re­gion health­ier and richer but we nearly de­stroyed it be­fore ral­ly­ing to save it. We drove wildlife to ex­tinc­tion by damming rivers, clear- cut­ting forests, min­ing hill­sides and al­most fill­ing in San Fran­cisco Bay. Only the tire­less ef­forts of many res­i­dents join­ing to­gether stopped the dev- as­ta­tion be­fore it was too late, halt­ing Bay fill, clos­ing shore­line dumps, ban­ning DDT and treat­ing raw sewage.

We united to save ma­jes­tic red­woods, hill­side vis­tas and scenic shore­lines, prompt­ing ea­gles and pel­i­cans, por­poises and whales to re­turn to the Bay. Now a mas­sive habi­tat restora­tion project is turn­ing brown Bay salt ponds to lush marshes, teem­ing with fish and wa­ter­fowl. And we in­creased public ac­cess to na­ture, with a neck­lace of shore­line and hill­side parks, con­nected by hundreds of miles of Bay and Ridge Trails.

But the Bay is still threat­ened by pol­lu­tion, cli­mate change and our grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. Plas­tic trash flows from our streets into creeks and the Bay. Ris­ing sea lev­els and more in­tense storms in­crease flood risks. Fresh­wa­ter di­ver­sions from up­stream en­dan­ger sal­mon and other fish.

To meet these chal­lenges and cre­ate a healthy Bay, we all have to ap­pre­ci­ate how much the Bay pro­vides us. Start by find­ing a free Bay Day event to at­tend Satur­day, or cre­ate your own Bay Day ex­pe­ri­ence at www.bayday.org.

You can also be “Bay Smart” by us­ing water ef­fi­ciently, pro­duc­ing less trash, vol­un­teer­ing on the shore­line and re­duc­ing your car­bon foot­print.

Tell your elected of­fi­cials at home, in Sacramento, and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to do more for the Bay and the Bay Area’s nat­u­ral places and vote as if the Bay de­pends on it — be­cause it does.

Whether you get out­side with thou­sands, with fam­ily, or alone, don’t take the Bay for granted. The Bay we love de­serves a trib­ute at least once a year from all of us who ben­e­fit from it. Af­ter all, with­out the Bay, we’d just be “The Area.”

RAY CHAVEZ – STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

The U.S. Navy Blue An­gels are one of the at­trac­tions dur­ing San Fran­cisco’s an­nual Fleet Week.

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