Next Saturday: Park Pioneer Talks

David Kaplow

David Kaplow, the last active member of the group of pioneers who established the Native Plant Area in the park, will talk about his experiences and show slides this coming Saturday, July 10, at 1 pm. Mr. Kaplow will appear in person, not on Zoom, at an outdoor venue in Berkeley.

The group of native plant enthusiasts called themselves DAWN — Design Associates Working with Nature. Charli Danielsen and David Amme, now legendary figures in native plant circles, were its senior members. Kaplow, with a graduate degree from UC Berkeley, soon became DAWN’s president. The group members collected native plant seeds from around the Bay Area, up and down the coast, and a few California locations farther afield. They set up greenhouses, grew the seeds into baby plants, and then popped the plants, thousands of them into the ground. And what ground! Parts of the park were still an active garbage dump at the time, and the roar of big trucks was their daily background music. Trucks also brought in soil to cover the garbage — soil of unknown origin, all mixed up, some of it friendly to plants, some of it full of weeds, some of it hostile to any greenery. The irrigation system broke constantly. The weather switched between salty wind and scorching drought. Wise men said it was a fool’s project, it couldn’t be done, native plants would never survive on a seaside landfill. But the DAWN members persevered. Working from sunup to sundown with minimal funding and support, they prevailed. The thriving forested grove on the ridge just north of the parking circle at the end of Spinnaker Way is their legacy. It is an oasis of shrubs, trees, flowers, and shade. To many, it’s the crown jewel of nature in the park.

David Kaplow remains active with native plants; he runs a native plant consultancy with a national clientele from Petaluma. He will speak about the DAWN project, and evaluate the condition of the Native Plant Area today, 35 years after its founding. He will share the lessons learned about planting native species, and about the human dimensions of this pioneer effort. He will show a selection of his more than 500 slides from the period. He will be happy to answer questions and meet members of the audience.

The event is free. It is sponsored by the Chavez Park Conservancy. It will take place outdoors at a private home in Berkeley at 1 pm on Saturday July 10 2021. To get the address, send “yes” or words to that effect to and indicate how many will be coming. Looking forward to seeing you there!

More about DAWN and the Native Plant Area

DAWN gardeners at work in 1983. David Kaplow photo.

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