Fighting for Eco-Justice
Doug Siden Protects the Environment and More
by Keri Hayes Troutman
If you’ve watched much public-access television lately, you may know Doug Siden from his show business career—he’s host of Alameda TV’s nature show, “Doug’s Discoveries.” But Doug Siden’s public persona goes much deeper than the television screen. From his roots in the civil rights movement to his years on the East Bay Regional Parks board, Siden has spent countless hours serving both Alameda and the larger East Bay community.
For the past 12 years, Siden has been elected to the park board, twice filling the role of board president. As such, he’s championed the restoration and preservation of some of our community’s most valued natural spaces, including many of Alameda’s gems.
“What initially got me interested in running for the park board, and also what’s kept me interested, is my concern for what I call eco-justice,” says Siden. With his background in civil rights activism and concern for environmental conservation, Siden has been especially interested in projects such as the East Bay Regional Parks’ summer camp scholarship program, which offers financial assistance to low-income children who want to take part in the park’s nature camps.
Recently, Siden chaired the campaign for Measure CC, which East Bay voters passed in November 2004. One of the main tenets of the bond measure, which will bring extra tax revenue to East Bay Regional Parks over the next 15 years, was the expansion of shoreline access. This aspect of Measure CC will have a direct impact on Alameda: Funds from the measure will allow Alameda’s Crab Cove Visitor Center to remain open year-round rather than closing for the winter months. And out at Alameda Point, Measure CC funds will help extend the Bay Trail into the former Naval Air Station grounds.
“We have more requests from school groups [to visit Crab Cove] than we can handle,” says Siden. “So these funds will really expand the opportunity for school kids to be down here experiencing the beauty of this environment.”
Siden’s television “career” took off last year when Alameda TV approached him about doing a series of shows for the public access channel. The idea was to have Siden act as host and highlight various East Bay parks, interviewing park naturalists and taking viewers on visual journeys through the landscape. Two programs have aired thus far, and more are in the works.
Though Siden admits that filming the show has been fun, his daily schedule isn’t filled with nearly as much glamour. In addition to his commitments and duties as an East Bay park board member, Siden is chair of the board for the Martin Luther King Freedom Center, president of the Alameda County Special Districts Association, chairman of the Seafarers Ministry of the Golden Gate and an active member of the Alameda Rotary Club.
When Siden was first elected to the park board, he was still employed full time as a pastor, working as part of the regional staff for the American Baptist Churches of the West on youth camp and conference programs. His congregation was involved in campaigning for a Martin Luther King holiday, which seems fitting given Siden’s past—he went to Alabama in the 1960s to take part in civil rights marches, he marched with Cesar Chavez and he campaigned in the Bay Area to ensure open housing laws.
Siden spent his youth in Southern California, then moved up to the Bay Area to attend graduate school at American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley. He’s been here ever since, residing in Alameda for the past 19 years. “I love Alameda because it offers a small-town atmosphere in the midst of a major metropolitan area,” says Siden.
When asked what keeps him involved in so many community service activities at an age when many are slowing down, Siden responds: “It’s what’s kept me interested all these years; it’s that there’s always a challenge ahead.”
The biggest challenge Siden foresees for East Bay Parks is financial. “We keep growing—we’re up to almost 96,000 acres now—and with the cuts in our state budget over the next two years, it’s definitely going to be a balancing act.”