At the August 12 2020 meeting of the Parks and Waterfront Commission via Zoom, I made the following statement during the Public Comment portion:
As most of you know, the UC Chancellor’s Office has awarded a grant of $5,000 to the Chavez Park Conservancy for Phase One of a restoration of the Native Plant Communities in Cesar Chavez Park. The City of Berkeley and the California Coastal Conservancy funded this project in the 1980s. Since then this 3-acre wooded area has seen minimal maintenance.
One would think that the Parks Department would be overjoyed to receive UC Berkeley funds to address the long-standing issues there. Instead, the Department appears to be turning its back on the money. It claims that it does not have the staff to supervise the effort. This objection is misplaced. This is not an amateur project. The project will run under the supervision of Prof. Emeritus Joe McBride of the UC College of Environmental Design, an internationally recognized authority on park restoration. Standing ready to perform the survey are Chris Kent, a licensed landscape architect with the local PGA firm, and Dave Kaplow, for many years a licensed landscape contractor and a principal, together with Charlie Danielsen, in the DAWN nonprofit that built the project. These are responsible professionals. The present grant is only for a survey and a proposal. The grant does not cover any physical changes to the park.
If Parks rejects the University’s money, the optics are awkward. It will appear that the Parks Department is unaware of the historic significance of this project, the first native planting on a former coastal landfill. It will look as if Parks is indifferent to the fate of native plants. Park visitors may conclude that Parks is hostile to nonprofit citizen groups taking a role in park stewardship. Parks will look unfriendly to the work of highly qualified and experienced landscape professionals. It will appear that Parks leadership remains uninformed about the safety and security issues that the neglected state of this area poses to the public. And it will look like Parks does not need money.
In conclusion, I would be pleased to walk with any member of the Parks leadership or any other concerned party through the area, and I believe that in half an hour your eyes will convince you that the UC Chancellor’s grant is a long overdue golden opportunity that should be seized with gratitude and without further delay.
Anyone concerned with the Native Plant Communities at Cesar Chavez Park who would like a tour, please contact me using the Contact Form.