At the close of testimony at the BAAQMD v Berkeley hearing on Feb. 6, I was allowed three minutes for a public comment. My full text is below. Because of he time constraint, the statement I read at the hearing is a bit shorter.
My name is Martin Nicolaus. I am a resident of Berkeley. I have visited Cesar Chavez Park for twenty years. I am currently the CEO of the Chavez Park Conservancy and webmaster of its website, chavezpark.org. The Conservancy is a local volunteer-driven charitable organization with 501 c 3 status dedicated to preservation and improvement of the whole 90 acres of the park. Among other projects, we have planted a native pollinator habitat in the southwest corner of the park, and we have organized teams of volunteers to pull weeds, lay mulch, and do other gardening work in the Native Plant Area. We closely follow and try to protect the migrating Burrowing Owls in the northeast corner of the park. We repair damage and do restoration in the Natural Area on the north side, and the Peace Symbol on the northwest hilltop. We help in maintenance of the Cesar Chavez Dolores Huerta Tribute Site and Solar Calendar on the west ridge. We advocate for preservation of nesting habitat in the grasslands on the east side. We have identified, photographed, and compiled an online register of more than 185 species of plants and 128 species of birds seen in the park. We have documented the operation of the Flare Station for the past ten years, and have published a number of items about its functioning and malfunctioning. In 2022, we led a successful movement involving hundreds of park visitors to stop proposed commercial development in the park.
The Proposed Order filed by attorney Joel Freid last Friday, if adopted, would be profoundly disruptive to the park. The heavy equipment required to dig up and replace thousands of feet of the existing lateral piping and to repair or replace many of the existing vertical extraction wells would damage the vegetation, gouge the soil, pollute the air, disturb the wildlife habitat, and shatter the silence of the park environment. The original installation of the system in 1988, with its pits and trenches, opened the gates to an invasion of ruderals, including aggressives like kikuyu grass and foxtail barley, and doomed the early efforts to establish the park as a native plant habitat. A repetition of this disruption will have long term deleterious effects on the entire park.
We are particularly concerned about digging in the northern lateral, which serves extraction wells No. 42, 41, 39, 36, and 32, as well as the lost well No. 34. These wells are located in the Natural Area, where entry by people and pets is normally prohibited. The sensitive habitat in this area is particularly vulnerable to scarring. We also note that extraction wells No. 20, 21, 22, 23, as well as 12 and 13 are located in or adjacent to the Off Leash Dog area. Construction here will be upsetting to the many users of this facility. Extraction Well No. 18 closely borders the Cesar Chavez Dolores Huerta Tribute Site and Solar Calendar and construction work here will endanger this carefully curated and culturally important setting. Extraction Wells No. 6, 7, and 8 are located in or adjacent to the Native Plant Area, and any clearing, trenching, digging or other construction here will destroy a native pollinator habitat created by generations of impassioned park volunteers and established with grants from city, university, county, utility, and state agencies.
We urge you to consider carefully and take into account the consequences of your decision for the thousands of users of this park, who rely on it as a natural refuge from the stresses of urban life, and who have displayed a passionate energy to defend it from prior disruptions. Thank you.