As California ghost town sinks into mud, wildlife returns

Drawbridge, an abandoned fishing and hunting town near Alviso, Calif., looks like this now. It began sinking in the 1930s.  

Associated Press

Drawbridge, an abandoned fishing and hunting town near Alviso, Calif., looks like this now. It began sinking in the 1930s. 

ALVISO, Calif. — A ghost town that was once a weekend getaway for San Francisco Bay area residents is slowly sinking into mud, and officials say the best option is to let it be buried.

The town of Drawbridge, at the far reach of Alameda County, is part of a $400 million effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore bay wetlands.

About 20 buildings remain in the marshy area, and as they sink, ducks, geese, shorebirds and other wildlife are returning. The town is accessible only by boat and a walk in hip waders.

Eric Mruz, manager of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses Drawbridge, said, "It's a landmark, so we're not going to do anything to accelerate its decay, but we're not going to prevent it either."

Established around 1880 when the railroads hired an operator to raise the train drawbridge over a slough for shipping traffic, the town experienced its heyday in the 1920s.

Hunters and fishermen arrived on the weekends, and the population swelled to about 1,000. About 90 buildings were erected, mostly on stilts because of the tides, and residents had wells and electricity. Trains stopped there five times a day.

There were no roads in town, and during high tides, neighbors would row to each other's houses for parties. Police rarely made the trek to Drawbridge because most residents were armed.

The town started sinking in the 1930s, when surrounding communities started pumping water to accommodate building booms. They also dumped raw sewage into the sloughs there.

The last residents left in 1979. By then, the train stops had ended and the land was fouled.

The buildings that remain are located along the train tracks and dilapidated.

"What got people out here to begin with — hunting and fishing — was the abundance of wildlife. Now we're seeing the final chapter," said John Bourgeois, head of the South Bay Restoration Project.

As California ghost town sinks into mud, wildlife returns 03/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 9:27pm]

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