Park News 7/8/24

Dry Watering Day

Chavez Park Conservancy Volunteer Coordinator Bob Huttar invited volunteers to a Stewardship Day in the park on Sunday July 7. The main mission was to water the plant babies in the Native Plant Area to help them over the heat wave. But just as the first volunteers were starting out from the parking circle, Parks Department security officer Rob Valentine appeared in haste and announced that the water main supplying the entire waterfront had ruptured. People in the hotel could not shower or flush toilets, and there was no water in the restaurants. One of us tested the faucet at our usual water source and confirmed that the park was dry. Much fun was had anyway, and we will come back when the water is on again.

There were weeds to control, and all hands turned to that task. The new plantings in the burned area on the north side of the Native Plant Area got a careful trimming, and this looks like a model area now, Bob reports. A dense stand of invasive Milk Thistle, some growing 8 feet tall, and a stand of Poison Hemlock almost that size, both growing in the upper path in the Native Plant Area, fell to our efforts, restoring sunshine to Lemonadeberry and Catalina Cherry trees.

After: Native trees have access to sun again. Brush pile at right.

And there were repairs to make. Some thoughtless person over the holiday weekend had broken the wooden support sticks for a young Torrey Pine in the south wooded area. Although severely bent over, the tree looks to have survived. We installed sturdy metal support poles in place of the wooden ones.

Pacific Aster, with blue flag, run over and destroyed by unknown truck

We couldn’t save a Pacific Aster plant in the meadow area. Someone had driven a truck directly over it, even though it was plainly marked with a blue flag. This could not have been Parks staff but had to be an outside contractor ignorant of the Native Pollinator Project ongoing in this area. There was no apparent work happening in the area, and the truck driver may have been lost or on a personal errand.

A couple of other natives that we had planted also suffered damage from the vehicle but probably will survive.

We have been working on signage for the Native Pollinator Project, and anticipate this being ready for installation in the fall. Once the signage is in place, the plants may be more protected. At least, an outside contractor will be on notice that these plants are important, serve a purpose, and may not be casually run over like roadside weeds.

Volunteers participating in this Stewardship Day were Jutta Burger, Helen Canin, Carlene Chang, Clyde Crosswhite, Karen Dabrusin, Bob Huttar, Donna Maniscalco, Nancy Nash, and Marty Nicolaus.

Waterfront Meeting in Park

Kate Harrison speaking at Waterfront Rally in the park July 7

While Conservancy volunteers were working in the Native Plant Area, Berkeley mayoral candidate and former City Council member Kate Harrison held an outdoor meeting on the kite lawn near the parking circle to address current waterfront issues. The text of Harrison’s remarks follows. About 40 people attended, and other speakers also gave presentations.

The Chavez Park Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and neither endorses nor opposes candidates for political office. We will be happy to publish statements on this issue by other candidates.

Statement by Kate Harrison

The Waterfront belongs to all of us — to people of all ages, incomes and ethnicities, sharing the joy of living in the Bay Area.

Our California values are enshrined in the covenant under which we were given control of these lands by the state. We hold these lands in trust – we must allow “public access to the waterfront.”  

The issues facing the waterfront are a microcosm of everything at stake in Berkeley: environmental sustainability, public access, the privatization of public space and protecting tax payer dollars. 

We need to stand up for the climate, our culture and our community. We could lose much of what we enjoy today in exchange for speculative profit which may never come.

I don’t accept that paradigm and neither should you.

Repeated plans to develop the Waterfront have been presented by the city administration over my years on the Council and the Parks Commission. We successfully rejected monetizing Cesar Chavez Park two years ago. Now there’s a plan to push out Cal Sailing to make way for yachts.

The Waterfront Plan coming to the Council in the Fall calls for:

  • a new or expanded hotel right on the water’s edge – even though no market studies have been done showing demand for it, 
  • a beer garden and potentially a hotel, right across the road here from Cesar Chavez
  • losing the small boat repair yard
  • reducing parking on Seawall Drive, where regular people eat lunch or watch the sunset
  • taking out natural plantings throughout. 

Over 200 people attended the Waterfront Plan discussion in June, 2022. Most of them strongly opposed the Plan. Despite this, Council member Hahn’s appointee Brennan Cox, was universally criticized for not listening to the public.

At its core, the Plan resurrects the idea of maximum profit as the ultimate goal. It relies on a repeated myth that the Waterfront has to make money for itself to exist. This thinking simply doesn’t comprehend the importance of community spaces.

Whatever you think of the ferry, the plan put forth to the city is abysmal. Every dollar spent by the City on the ferry – like the $1.7 million recently allocated by this council and the $6 million sought from the City for annual operating costs — is a dollar not there to maintain the park, and only leads to further pressure for commercial activities at the Waterfront. 

This is the very definition of industry capture of public process. 

Instead, we need to plan for the Waterfront we want and invest our resources in this Crown Jewel. On Council, I increased $2 million in General Fund dollars to park maintenance annually. Some council members, including my opponent, offer lofty plans to make the Waterfront much more sterile and even include a heliport. Where is the money going to come from and who does that benefit?

Without city support and with grand plans looming, we will once again be told that we must privatize, we must invite more hotels, we must ruin the natural feel and incredible access to this beautiful part of our City. We must resist. I commit to join you in that fight.

Threat of Plant Slasher Trench Route

Now that all the scheduled landfill gas extraction wells in the park have been dug out and had their heads updated with the latest shielding, plumbing, and meters, SCS Engineering is moving on to the next step, reworking the lateral pipes that carry the extracted gases from the wells to the Flare Station near the middle of the park.

Today we received word that SCS is planning a new trench pipe running from Extraction Well 7 to Extraction Well 18. EW7 sits inside the Native Plant Area and was spared excavation by backhoe to protect the sensitive environment, see this item. EW18 sits on the east-facing slope near the big picnic area, due east of EW7. See map in this post. A trench between these two wells would cut through the heart of the Native Pollinator Project that Conservancy volunteers have been establishing for the past three years, and would take out a large number of newly maturing natives. Messages opposing the proposed route should be sent to Mary Skramstad, City of Berkeley Environmental Compliance Specialist, mskramstad@berkeleyca.gov  

Summer Schedule.

This post comes on the Summer Schedule, where posts drop whenever there’s material and motivation, which may be more or less often than the usual regular Friday at 5 pm publication schedule.

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