The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project: A Cultural Landscape Approach for the Resource Management Plan

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The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project: A Cultural Landscape Approach for the Resource Management Plan – May 13, 2008

Download the pdf.


Purpose of the Thesis:

The salt ponds and levees of southern San Francisco Bay are a culturally significant landscape wherein culture and nature have been linked over 150 years of industrial salt production through solar evaporation in an extensive wetland ecosystem. This 15,100-acre landscape is the subject of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project (SBSPRP), the cultural resources of which are receiving scant attention relative to the SPSPRP’s primary resource management goals for wildlife habitat, flood prevention and public recreation.

The intent of this thesis is to show how a cultural landscape analysis can be used in the SBSPRP to:

1) document the landscape’s cultural resources for the purpose of including them in the SBSPRP’s Resource Management Plan (RMP); 2) demonstrate how the landscape provides the organic and unifying context for the study of the interaction between humans and the natural environment characterized by revolving and cyclical patterns of exchange and adaptation over time and across space; 3) develop a heritage tourism plan, including a public interpretation program;

4) establish a basis for justifying the salt pond landscape’s cultural significance and potential eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.


Research was conducted on the history of the salt production industry and the Bay’s environment, and a general cultural resources survey and inventory were completed. The history of cultural landscape analysis was explored including an academic and government literature review of cultural landscape studies and resource management plans for national and state parks, wildlife refuges, and other types of protected areas such as archaeological, World Heritage and eco-cultural tourism sites.


In general there is ample information on methodologies for cultural landscape analysis and heritage tourism planning. While there are several examples where historic and environmental resources have been integrated using the landscape as a unified context for resource management plans, much remains to be done to make effective use of this practice.


The cultural landscape analytical framework developed here and when applied to the SBSPRP should yield a more holistic and enriching RMP.

Aerial view of the San Francisco Bay salt ponds.

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2 Responses to The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project: A Cultural Landscape Approach for the Resource Management Plan

  1. Mike Rugg says:

    Ellen – You may remember me from the many dredging and restoration programs we were involved in together during the past 20 years. I have just skimmed through this comprehensive piece of work, and am blown away. I’m sure you are proud of this accomplishment, and you should be. Good job.

    • ellen says:

      Hi Mike,
      Of course, Great to hear from you. thank you for the compliments. Your buzz reminds me that I should do some more work on my website. I’m still very much involved with the SBSP restoration and also teaching a cultural landscape course at UCBX featuring my research. CDFW’s John Krause at ELER is very good buddy. Are you retired? Let me know what you are up to.
      Best fishes,

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