Hidden East Bay Wonders: The Albany Bulb

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Hidden East Bay Wonders brings you everything weird, whimsical and wonderful in the East Bay. This time, we bring you the Albany Bulb.

Jutting into the waters of the San Francisco Bay, what began in 1963 as a massive landfill for construction debris and trash is today one of California’s greatest outdoor art parks.

The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage

The Albany Bulb, at the end of Buchanan Street, between Golden Gate Fields and the Albany Mudflats State Marine Park, was formed after decades of commercial dumping at the site created a peninsula of rubble, wreckage, rebar and junk that sprouted flowers, bushes, fungi, trees and grass.

The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage

When dumping stopped in 1983, it became a home for vagabonds, vandals, bored teens and artists–a playground for the human imagination and a refuge for informal and participatory art.

That ended in 1999, when the City of Albany declared the site a park and sent in police to kick out the squatters that had made the Bulb well known. But the Bulb remains as a safe haven for art and a testament to mother nature’s ability to reverse our sins, corrode our metals and make smooth our bits of glass.

The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage

Concrete pillars, slabs of old brick walls, rusty iron wires, gears, screws and bolts; gored stereos bleached by the sun; salt-gnawed bicycle wheels and driftwood, smoothed by the lick of waves. The Bulb is a hallowed ground of garbage.

Walking through it is like walking through Roman ruins. You can find moments of silence where you feel you’re the only person left, long after the buzz of civilization has been muffled.

The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage

Wandering this special place, you will find breathtaking murals; whirligigs; tile and bead mosaics; gargantuan sculptures of driftwood, wire and flotsam; winding rock labyrinths and swirling, rich graffiti covering every inch of rock.

More importantly, the Bulb serves as an estuarial habitat–home to Burrowing Owls, Blue Herons, geese, ducks, snakes, reptiles and small mammals like opossums, rabbits, mice and squirrels–all in need of protection.

The Albany Bulb. Photo by James Gage

Today, the Bulb is under threat. Once owned by the City of Albany, it is now being transferred into the management of the East Bay Regional Parks District, a move that endangers the preservation of its art.

You can help save it. Advocate for park management that doesn’t erase the creative spirit of the Bulb. Join fun art, nature and performance events every first Sunday of the month, and help protect this sanctuary of the human spirit.

On 10:00 a.m., Sunday, February 4, you can join a free art and history tour of the Bulb with the California Institute for Community, Art and Nature–a project of the Earth Island Institute.

For more information, email:

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James Gage

James Gage

Will write 4 food.