Conservancy at Work

The Chavez Park Conservancy does more than highlight the many natural beauties of the park. Part of the Conservancy’s mission is to advocate for restoration, preservation, and enhancement of park assets. Here are three recent interventions:

Part of Native Plant Communities Area

Native Plant Communities Restoration Project

This week we received word from the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund that we passed the critical first stage of the Chancellor’s Grant application to restore the Native Plant Area on the west ridge of the park. This area was planted in 1981-1984 by native plant gardener Charli Danielsen and her associates in the Design Associates Working with Nature group (DAWN). It is a unique and historic project, implanting on this challenging manufactured landscape atop a landfill a patch of local California nature the way it used to be. The project has been a great success, but has enjoyed limited upkeep over the decades and could benefit greatly from planful, caring restoration. The Conservancy’s application envisions a two-stage process, with assessment, design, and urgent cleanup steps in Phase One, followed by additional funding to execute an agreed restoration plan in Phase Two. UC Berkeley emeritus professor Joe McBride, a veteran of park restoration projects here and in other countries, is the Conservancy’s advisor on the effort. We are working on the application for the final Chancellor’s Grant determination.

Burrowing Owl on rocks east side of fenced area, visible from Open Circle (“Spiral”) 2/16/19

Owl Protection and Public Art Access

One of the questions I hear most often is why the Burrowing Owl or owls don’t use the fenced area set aside for them in the northeast corner of the park. I give a joking answer, “Because they don’t read English.” But obviously there’s more at work. Very likely, part of the reason is that the area is very small and not very safe. The Art Deco fence is decorative but not effective to keep out off-leash dogs. Dogs invade the space on an almost daily basis (see, for example, here, here, and here. It would be helpful if we could back up that fence with a temporary 4-ft high green plastic garden fence. That would stop 95 percent of dog invasions and blend gently into the environment. It would go up in the fall when the birds are expected and come down in the middle of March when they have migrated back north. At the same time, the southern entrance to the area should be reconfigured by moving the fence there a few feet to the north so that the public can have year-round access to the Open Circle seating area (“the Spiral”). The Spiral is the only vantage point for observing owls in the rocks on the east shore of the owl sanctuary, and it’s the best all-round birding observatory on the North Basin cove. The move requires the consent of Park management, the Civic Arts Commission, and the local Audubon Society chapter. A memorandum to these bodies went out this past week, and appearances at the respective commissions are on the agenda. Click here for a PDF copy of the memo.

National Park Service replaced porta-potties in Pacifica park with this flush-vault restroom. Total cost installed: $60,000.

Proper Park Restrooms an Urgent Necessity

The persistence of porta-potties in this wonderful park is a continuing disgrace. Designed for temporary event use, these facilities were never intended for long term service. It costs three times as much to service a porta-potty as a permanent bathroom, and even when properly serviced — rarely the case — they are forbidding to users, especially women, children, and the disabled. Berkeley park visitors deserve better! A flyer distributed at the Jan. 29 joint meeting of the Parks and Waterfront Commissions is attached here as a PDF. There will be additional public hearings on this and related matters; stay tuned here for advance notice.

For a complete roundup of what your Chavez Park Conservancy has been doing this past year, check out our Annual Report for 2019.

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