The Peace Symbol on the northwest hilltop, formerly invisible under a jungle of weeds, has a new life, just in time for the big antiwar March in Oakland on Sunday April 15. With the valued assistance of Sheila Jordan, I got on my hands and knees, yanked up the variety of misplaced greenery that was vigorously growing there, chopped out most of the roots with a hand hoe, and then spread eight bags of red mulch inside the design and two bags of black on the perimeter for contrast. Altogether the project took about six hours over five days and cost $20 plus tax in materials. Time and money well spent.
The origin of this work of public art — one of only four public artworks in the park — remains shrouded in mystery. Historical Google Earth maps contain blurry images that suggest the symbol was already present in 2003. I have not yet found a park old-timer who has more definite information. More recently, some kind soul planted succulents between some of the stones, and these survived despite the overgrowth of weeds.
The rocks that make up the design are bits of broken-up construction debris of the kind that could be found in quantity on the Brickyard Spit before the recent East Bay Regional Parks makeover. They must have been carried to the site from a distance, and were not taken from the nearby rip-rap border that surrounds the northwest hill.
My restoration effort is far from perfect. Some unwanted plants and their roots remain and will resurge, as weeds always do. The colors of the mulch will fade over the course of the year and turn a subdued gray, like the hair on so many of us veteran peace activists.
Volunteer labor, as distinct from the paid labor of Parks Department staff members, plays a role in other park areas as well. Santiago Casal and friends perform hours of work periodically mowing and trimming the Cesar Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar as neatly as a golf green. Dog enthusiasts do an annual foxtail cleanup in the dog park area. I am hoping that other park visitors will appoint themselves Peace Symbol Keepers and lend a gentle hand as may be required to keep the site tidy.