Alviso Marina County Park

San Jose, California | C.2014

Photo Credit: Presley Lugo

In Alviso Marina County Park, flourishing marshlands cover miles of land that was once a toxic drainage site for a nearby mining district. Situated at the south end of San Francisco Bay just outside of San Jose, the Park is home to seven salt ponds and is a gateway to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

In the mid-19th century, the town of Alviso brimmed with industry and served as a port, providing shipping services for California’s then-state capital of San Jose and the surrounding Santa Clara Valley. The New Almaden Mining District also used the Alviso Slough as a toxic drainage channel for its mercury-rich ore, known as quicksilver. The Mine was the oldest and most productive quicksilver mine in the U.S.

After the state capital moved to Sacramento and the mines eventually closed, the port lost its demand. Over the next century, the town of Alviso continued to sustain itself through different industries. During the Great Depression, its dance halls and gambling casinos kept the area afloat, and by 1968, the town was consolidated into the City of San Jose.

After the 1970s, Alviso had all but lost its former luster, turning into a shadow of booming Silicon Valley. Yet, while its days as a commercial hub were long gone, the area started to emerge as a residential neighborhood and environmental refuge. The Park was created with extended boardwalks for bird watching and launch ramps for boaters to access the Bay.

Once a bedrock of shipping and industry, Alviso is now a refuge for habitat and wildlife. In 2018, a government proposal was issued for a $100 million restoration project to convert the salt ponds into wetlands, making it the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the U.S. west coast.

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