Taking the kids

Antioch Marina -- Antioch, California

(Originally published March 22, 1998)

By Glenn Gehlke

We love: The Barbara Price Waterfront Park and Antioch Marina.

What you need to know first: Collectively known as the Antioch Waterfront, this vast expanse of wilderness located at the edge of the city's Rivertown district offers plentiful opportunities for family fun. At its heart is the city's marina and a small park dedicated in 1995 for former City Councilwoman Barbara Price.

What's to do: With spring on the way, the park is an ideal place to go kite-flying, play ball or fling a Frisbee. There are a dozen tables, offering a chance to enjoy a picnic lunch while taking in the sights and sounds on both land and water.

If your kids like watching boats or trains, the park affords an excellent vantage point for both activities. Watercraft of all sizes -- from ski boats to the occasional cargo ship -- sail past on the river behind Humphrey's restaurant. Trains are also a frequent attraction, and picnickers have prime seating when it comes to watching a passing freight or an Amtrak passenger train easing to a stop at the downtown station.

Walkers will find a couple of trails to choose from. One starts at Price Park and follows the railroad tracks about a quarter mile east to downtown shops and the municipal pier. The other meanders along the banks of the marina and out to the Dow wetlands preserve, an enormous expanse of acreage where shorebirds make their home and cattails and wild blackberries grow in abundance.

At the end of the marina trail, visitors can enjoy a spectacular vista of the Delta, plunk rocks off the shallow banks, or cast a line for fish.

Pitfalls: The isolation that makes the marina such a wonderful escape from suburbia also makes it an easy target for vandals and pranksters. Maintenance crews generally do a good job of keeping on top of the problems, but signs of abuse are not hard to find.

Discarded bottles and cans, the defaced concrete of a once proud veterans' memorial and damaged exercise equipment along the marina trail are an unfortunate fact.

Even though Price Park seems accommodating enough for most forms of play, its proximity to the Delta can pose a challenge. El Niño imposed its wrath this winter, rendering the otherwise grassy knoll a vast lake. And a game of Frisbee on a moderately windy day can quickly become an exercise in hide-and-seek when a light breeze deposits your flying disc somewhere amid the tules.

Kid-friendly: With so much to do in one place, even those with the shortest attention spans will remain engaged for hours.

A visit to the waterfront offers a chance to learn about and appreciate nature, exercise young bodies, and possibly make new friends.

Parents will appreciate the fact that public restrooms are located in the parking lot just across from the park. They will also welcome the opportunity to let children romp on grass without fear they might stray into traffic, thanks to well-designed landscaping.

Hours: The park is open during daylight hours.

Other costs: There is no charge to stroll the pathways. For those interested in highlighting their visit with a special lunch or dinner, Humphrey's restaurant offers a variety of menu items at moderate prices.

Also, the Riverview Lodge restaurant is just across from the train station.

To get there: From Highway 4 heading east, take the L Street exit and turn left. Follow the road to the very end and you will be at the marina. Heading west on Highway 4, exit at A Street and turn right. Follow A to 10th Street, then turn left. At L Street, make a right and follow it to the marina.

And furthermore: Pets are welcome, but please keep them on a leash and clean up after them.

Call: 925-779-6950.

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Distributed by the Contra Costa Times

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