What do Times Square and the Carquinez Scenic Drive Trail have in common? The former has been Disneyfied, and the latter is about to be. A fairly well-kept secret, a two-mile section of the Drive between Martinez and Post Costa fell victim to the forces of Mother Nature 30 years ago and was abandoned and gated at each end. As it further deteriorated, the untended road became a haven for bicyclists and walkers. I first learned of the place in a 1999 article in the "Contra Costa Times." I went and checked it out, becoming intrigued with the solitude and stunning views of the Carquinez Strait. It ends on the Port Costa side next to the remnants of a nineteenth-century brickworks.
Although some of the trail's pavement has crumbled toward the railroad tracks below, much of it is surprisingly intact after all these years and has become an asphalt palette. Dozens of images and messages have been painted on the pavement. If you've never walked or ridden it, you've missed a treat. It's a quirky, funky, fun place. That is, it was.
Not long ago, the trail and 150 adjoining acres were acquired by the East Bay Regional Park District. The plan is to close it down soon and start turning it into a bland 10-foot-wide gravel path that is scheduled to open to the public sometime next year. The pavement and art will be eviscerated.
So, on the one hand, the place will be a lot less interesting and challenging-- at one point, for example, the pavement is completely gone, leaving a two-foot-wide dirt trail with a sheer drop below. On the other hand, the new trail will become part of the Bay Trail, planned to eventually encircle the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. In turn, that will bring more people out to enjoy the views and recreation. But anyone who travels it next year will have missed a cool experience that's about to disappear. They also won't get to see all the artwork (including my large "bainting" that I created by riding a bike holding a rack full of dripping-paint bottles on a 15-foot x 30-foot section of the pavement).
With that aspect of the project in mind, I slapped a video camera on my bike recently and rode the trail's distance, recording the current state of the place for posterity. I also took numerous stills. Someday when I'm feeling ambitious, I plan to edit this material into a video commemoration of a unique place that will soon be changed forever.
John A. Barry is a writer and trAction Painting exponent. To share anything art-related or to pitch a story idea, call him at 314-9528 or email [email protected]