EBSTC and the Berkeley chapter are planning a trip to the Bay Model on Saturday, June 3. Contact us if you are interested in joining us on this excursion. Patrick Lufkin, who is arranging the excursion, explains what is the Bay Model and its significance to technical communicators.
The Bay Model is a huge–several acres–working model of San Francisco Bay and the Delta, operated by the Corps of Engineers. Once a working scientific research tool, it is now primarily an educational site. It offers a unique experience that very few people in the Bay Area know anything about. We all live in the Bay Area and deal with the state’s water issues, and it behooves us to know more about them.
The Bay Model is also interesting from a technical communication perspective. In maintaining the Model, the Corps of Engineers as taken what was once a scientific instrument, and turned it into a technical communication tool. It marshals a full range of technical communication techniques to deliver its content, telling the story of the Bay, the Delta, and California’s unique history and situation with respect to water. To do so, it uses dioramas, posters, signage, and more. There is a small theatre and a movie. There is an audio station where information is available via telephone style head phones. And of course, there is the huge Bay Model itself, a fully labeled and detailed working model–pumps move the tides up and down during the day–of the Bay and delta. You can circumnavigate the Bay, walk over parts of it on bridges, and become aware of parts of it most of us have never visited. There is also a room dedicated to ship building on the Bay during the “Rosie the Riveter” period of WWII.
The Bay Model is located on a main road just north of Sausalito and both the Model and parking are free. For more information, visit the Bay Model website.
by Patrick Lufkin
Bay Model field trip: On June 3, a group of technical communicators and friends from around the Bay Area visited one of the area’s hidden treasures, the Bay Model in Sausalito. About 30 members from various chapters participated.
On June 3, a group of technical communicators and friends from around the Bay Area visited one of the area’s hidden treasures, the Bay Model in Sausalito. The excursion was organized by me and Nicki Davis, Berkeley STC chapter president, as part of an outreach effort to increase camaraderie and cooperation among the five Bay Area STC chapters. About 30 members from various chapters participated.
Located on the waterfront just north of Sausalito, the Bay Model is a three-dimensional working model of the San Francisco Bay and Delta. The facility was opened in 1957 to help the U.S. Corps of Engineers fulfill its responsibilities to study and maintain the nation’s waterways.
About the size of two football fields, the facility is a marvel. Pumps move water up and down on a regular cycle to simulate the complex tides, currents, and flows of the vast estuary. The model is fully labeled and detailed. You can circumnavigate the bay and delta, walk over parts of it on bridges, and become aware of out-of-the-way places most of us have never visited.
The facility served as a scientific modeling tool until it was retired in 2000 when its modeling functions were taken over by computers. During its heyday, the facility provided evidence-based input for an array of bay and water conservations issues, from maintaining safe navigation, to wetland restoration, to recreation and agriculture, to such perennial California water use issues as proposals for a peripheral canal.
In fact, the facility’s construction grew directly out of one such proposal. In the late 1940’s, John Reber, a California actor, theatrical producer, and school teacher, thought he knew the solution to California’s water problems: trap and hold the fresh water that would otherwise flow out of the Golden Gate. According to the Reber Plan, the Bay would be dammed with barriers to create two huge freshwater lakes and some shipping canals; the rest would be filled in for commercial land use. When, despite its grandiosity, the idea gained some traction, the Corps of Engineers stepped in, called for a detailed study of the plan, and constructed the Bay Model to test it. The barriers, which were the plan’s essential element, failed to survive this critical study. The fight over the Reber Plan played a large part in saving the bay and giving birth to the area’s storied environmental movement.
The facility now plays an important role in educating the public on the natural and cultural history of the bay and its watershed, making it also interesting from a technical communication viewpoint. To educate and inform, the facility marshals a full range of technical communication techniques. In addition to the detailed and fully labeled model itself, it uses photographs, dioramas, murals, signage, hands-on displays, historic artifacts, and more. There is even a small theatre which shows a well-done introductory video.
The various communication tools cover California’s water history from when the vast expanse of Tulare Lake still dominated much of the San Joaquin valley, to the despoliation brought about by hydraulic mining during the California Gold rush, to the demands of modern agriculture and population growth. Housed in a huge warehouse that was once a World War II shipbuilding site, the facility also has an area dedicated to telling the story of the “Rosie-the-Riveter” era of shipbuilding on the Bay.
For many, the highlight of the excursion was a docent-led tour provided by the Corps. The volunteer tour guide did a fine job giving background, fielding questions, and explaining features that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Tours are available for groups from 10 to 30 people. For those who want to visit on their own, audio stations keyed to parts of the model are available for a small fee.
Both fun and educational, the day couldn’t have gone better. Many of the participants brought lunches to enjoy while schmoosing at the waterfront picnic tables.
I would like to thank all those who participated, as well as the leaders of the Bay Area STC chapters who promoted the event and helped to make it a success.
For those who want to visit on their own, the Bay Model Visitors Center is located at 2100 Bridgeway, at the north end of Sausalito. The Bay Model is easily accessed from either the Richmond or the Golden Gate Bridge. Admission and parking are free.
For more information see the Bay Model website: http://www.spn.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Bay-Model-Visitor-Center/
Click “Bay Model Journey” and other links for additional information.
Patrick Lufkin has experience in computer documentation, newsletter production, and public relations. He reads widely in science, history, and current affairs, as well as on writing and editing. He chairs the Gordon Scholarship for Technical Communication and co-chairs the Northern California Technical Communication competition.