Dear Mayor and City Council Members,
About the nicest park I’ve seen anywhere is the one at the Berkeley waterfront, known as “Chávez Park.” It’s a 90 acre peninsula, jutting out into the San Francisco Bay, and inhabited by various birds and wildlife. A couple of Burrowing Owls spend their winter months at the northeast corner where they do photo-ops for nature photographers. Just as the owls are about to leave for their summer home in March or April, a flock of redwing blackbirds arrives to fill the air with their high-pitched electronic-sounding voices. I love their singing, but a friend says they could use voice-lessons.
We also hear the mournful cries of seagulls who seem to be expressing their concern about global warming. A flight of somewhat awkward-looking pelicans will sometimes pass overhead, and a pair of ducks will sometimes appear. Large flocks of water birds often bob in the gentle water of the cove on the east side. Once in a great while we’re treated to a visit by a blue heron or a white egret; if we get too close, the bird steps back to practice social distancing. On rare occasions we’ve seen a seal.
The squirrels go to bed early and disappear from the scene an hour or two before sunset, but when we get there early enough, in time for squirrel appreciation, we’ll see them scooting back and forth across the trail, sometimes playing tag. Some are people-watchers, and sit there observing us as we stroll by. Others sit on the rocks above the water, gazing out over the waves, perhaps contemplating the meaning of life. These squirrels must be the philosophers of the animal world.
Along with the rest of the wildlife of this park, the cute little squirrels are emotional support animals. Their presence brightens up our day.
It’s hard to believe that so small an area, only about a quarter of a mile across, can have sharply differing climatic zones. But it really does. Along the eastern shore by the cove, it’s relatively warm, while on the western side there’s often a strong, cold wind blowing in from the bay, and people bring their kites to fly here. Some people have parachute-type kites which practically pull them up the steep hillsides. At the northwest end is a knob of land we call “Isla Negra,” after a Neruda poem describing a stormy night on the seacoast.
At sunset we’ll see people admiring the sunset as it goes down behind the Golden Gate Bridge. Every day the sunset is different, and the clouds above present different patterns. On a clear day we get a view of San Francisco sparkling in the sunlight, and to the north of the city we’ll see Mount Tamalpais and the lower mountains of Marin County.
Wind-surfers go scooting by on the water, drawn by kite-sails flown high overhead. Sailboats leisurely cruise back and forth. A pleasant seascape. Off to one side of the park is a dry-dock where sailboats are being repaired. Some of these boats are small and cute, and some are beautiful antique-looking boats. Sloops, schooners, and sometimes ketches and yawls are among the boats to be seen there. I sometimes go there to admire them, and sometimes talk with the people repairing them. They’re all part of this wonderful Berkeley waterfront.
This amazing park is exactly the way it should be. It needs no improvements, and certainly no developers. But now we hear of park-wrecking plans to develop it for various money-making schemes; they would build an ugly “event pavilion,” a ridiculous “adventure park,” and a bunch of other unneeded stuff to take up space and destroy wildlife habitat.
Please leave our beautiful waterfront park alone; it’s perfect the way it is.
Berkeley, CA 94702