Park Pioneer Speaks

David Kaplow, former president of Design Associates Working with Nature (DAWN), speaking in Berkeley July 10 2021

Dave Kaplow, one of the pioneering figures who shaped Cesar Chavez Park, spoke to an audience of two dozen park enthusiasts on Saturday afternoon July 10 in an outdoor event organized by the Chavez Park Conservancy. Kaplow, the former president of Design Associates Working with Nature (DAWN) was part of a core group that included legendary native plant evangelists David Amme and Charli Danielsen. Starting in 1982, the group collected native plant seeds from up and down California, grew thousands of seedlings in a self-built greenhouse and nursery, and planted more than 120 varieties of native plants in a 3.5-acre bayside slope just north of the parking circle at the west end of Spinnaker Way. Today, the DAWN group’s work is known as the Native Plant Area. Kaplow showed about 30 slides from the more than 500 that he took during the two-year course of the project, and answered questions from an audience that included a number of prominent park activists. He spoke about the gardening challenges and also about the politics of native landscaping projects. He retains a vibrant love for Cesar Chavez Park.

“That park has got to have the most spectacular location in the Bay Area,” Kaplow said, “and it is so amazingly underutilized.  With the views from that park, that should be a world class park, and there is no reason why it can’t be.  Absolutely none. To me that is a blown resource.”

Kaplow has spent the last 35 years as a native plant contractor and consultant. He is the principal of Eco-Management, a consulting firm specializing in native plant design and landscaping, headquartered in Petaluma.

In the audience were Norman La Force, chair of the board of directors of the Chavez Park Conservancy, as well as board members Sheila Jordan, the retired Alameda County Superintendent of Education, Santiago Casal, founder and curator of the Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta Homage Solar Calendar, Jutta Burger, senior scientist with the California Invasive Plant Council, and Carol Denney, activist, musician, and publisher of Pepper Spray Times. Susan Schwartz, president of Friends of Five Creeks, one of the oldest and most active park nonprofits in the East Bay, was there, as were Jim Hanson, a leader of the East Bay chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Igor Tregub, a leader of the Sierra Club, and Toni Mester, a long-time advocate for Aquatic Park, among others. Jim McGrath, a member and former chair of the Berkeley Parks and Waterfront Commission, attended and contributed to the discussion after Kaplow’s presentation.

Due to technical difficulties, a complete video of Kaplow’s 90-minute talk and QA session will not be available. A short selection of excerpts is in preparation and will be posted here when complete. Below is a selection from some of the slides that Kaplow presented.


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