volunteers is selling out
The mission of the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association has been to create a usable map of pedestrian pathways in Berkeley and the surrounding communities for public use and enjoyment.
Now that local bookstores have sold out of their orders for the maps and the group prepares to have more copies made, it is becoming clear that these little links of Berkeley’s past are ready to be discovered by the public.
Since its printing two months ago, the initial run of 2000 maps has sold out. Some local bookstores tested buyer response cautiously, buying only a small number of copies, but they quickly ordered more copies when their stock sold out.
Black Oak Books on Shattuck Avenue has sold out of their supply of the maps, with most of the customers noticing the map as they shopped at the store.
“Now people are requesting it, especially in the last week,” said Rose Katz, a representative of the bookstore. “They've got a winner.”
The map committee members of the BPWA volunteered for more than a year on the project, well-aware that their only reward would be the satisfaction of helping others find their way along the paths with greater ease, efficiency and enjoyment.
It was not an easy task.
The map, a thorough representation of the city and surrounding areas, effectively shows 136 paths, in passable or impassable form, in addition to several trails that run through Tilden Regional Park. Numerous public parks and creeks in the Berkeley vicinity are also shown.
Paul Grunland recalls that there were times when he might have wanted to “throw in the towel” because of the long list of things he and the others had to do: check existing pathway maps with city maps from the 1920s, verify the passability of the paths and make the myriad of decisions regarding the actual production of the map - colors, information, legends, display of streets and so on.
It was the benefit of a pathways map as a public resource that kept he and the other five map committee members of the BPWA going.
Funding for the project came from a few different sources, primarily through member contributions and a grant from the city to publish the map. Upcoming editions of the map will be made possible with “revenue from the sale of the current map,” according to Jacques Ensign, a member of the map committee.
Grunland leads walks along various pathways each month, and gives an excellent narrative given his broad knowledge of the history of the area.
When describing the paths, he tells of a city during the first decade of the century, when Berkeley was uncluttered with automobile traffic, and developers and architects were more visionaries than urban constructors.
“It was a different world,” Grunland said. “The paths were really the result of good planning - by developers who wanted the city to be beautiful. These were really altruistic kinds of people.”
The functionality and beauty of the paths that remain serve as reminders of a period during the area’s unique development.
With regard to the association’s ability to generate public awareness for path reparation and appreciation, District 6 Councilwoman Betty Olds remarked, “They have accomplished something that the city hasn't been able to do in fifty years.”
Olds went on to say that the paths provide an excellent escape route during a disaster like earthquake or fire - events during which a knowledge of the easiest and quickest way to safety would be of great importance.
Lisa Frieden, who joined the group in 1999, was enthusiastic when asked about the process of creating the map. “It was incredible,” she said. “A group of independent people coming together to do a volunteer thing - here we are a year and a half later, and we have this really cool map.”
The proceeds of the map are going to be used to improve existing paths as well as to regain and reclaim the paths for the public. Frieden said that the citizens of Berkeley will now have a reliable resource to lead them through all the parts of the city with ease.
Grunland is pleased that with the map, the efforts are becoming a “high-profile thing.” He said that the association has met one of its main goals.
“The mission is to protect the paths through public knowledge and reverence. . .it’s becoming an enormously effective force,” he said.
As the city puts up pathway signage, and local Boy Scout troops helping with labor, paths that were once defunct are now safe for pedestrians who require handrails and secure steps.
The association’s map committee is already working on revisions for the next edition. At a meeting Saturday, updates to be considered will include the possibility of marking wheelchair access as well as the lesser issues of spelling and layout.
“Minor tweaking,” Grunland said, proud that the first edition came out so well.
Map committee member Ensign said that the second edition will be ready in about six weeks, just in time for the Solano Stroll.
For those who enjoy walking for recreation, transportation, or even for exercise, getting their own copy of the pathways map will be worth the wait.