Improved Berkeley Path Maps Could Prove Vital in Earthquake By ZELDA BRONSTEIN Special to the Planet
In the last two weeks, getting ready for the Big One has suddenly engaged many Bay Area residents. With the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina serving as a heads-up, people are replenishing their stock of water, batteries, canned foodstuffs and first aid kits. Those who live in or frequent the Berkeley hills would do well to add another item to their earthquake preparedness lists: the recently published third edition of the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association’s popular map of all city-owned footpaths and stairways.
During the Berkeley-Oakland firestorm of 1991, paths were important evacuation routes in areas where streets had become impassable.
According to a letter sent to Berkeley hills residents last week by Fire Chief Debra Pryor, the city has spent part of a $413,000 Fire Prevention and Safety grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a grant supplemented with $177,000 in city funds, to improve the upper Glendale path by adding steps and a handrail.
But Berkeley’s paths are much more than emergency evacuation routes. They also offer quiet beauty, historic interest, recreation and convenience—all made even more accessible by the Path Wanderers map. First published in 2002, the paths map soon appeared on the local Top Ten List of Nonfiction Bestsellers. A second edition followed in 2003. Twelve thousand maps have already been sold, a figure that the BPWA cites with understandable pride.
In preparing the third edition, the association’s all-volunteer Map Committee walked and researched the mapped area to check for accuracy. The latest version includes 75 changes, most of which clarify features that were absent from or confusing in earlier editions, or that correct known errors.
The most noteworthy revisions, says BPWA Boardmember Will Schieber, are those that show 10 newly completed paths. They include two segments of Stevenson Path, which with Stoddard Path, extends from Keeler Avenue to Grizzly Peak Boulevard; and three segments of Glendale Path.
Those additions reflect the Path Wanderers’ extensive path-building efforts in the past two years. Built under the general direction of the Berkeley Department of Public Works, with the help of BPWA volunteers, local Boy Scout troops and other civic groups, the new paths are located on some of the approximately 40 city-owned rights of way that were set aside for paths but never completed.
When the Berkeley hills were first developed in the early 20th century, the city was a streetcar suburb. The original developers deeded to the city 136 rights-of-way for paths. The paths that were built provided ready access to the streetcar lines that then wove through the city. After the Key Route line was dismantled in the 1950s, and people increasingly depended for transport on the private automobile, the momentum to finish the planned paths waned. In many places, projected pedestrian routes were overtaken by weeds and brambles, and by encroachments from neighboring properties. Indeed, some homeowners have been surprised to learn that a strip of what they regarded as their land is actually a city-owned right-of-way destined for a footpath.
The newly revised path map sells for $4.95 and can be purchased directly from the BPWA by mail or on one of the organization’s walks. It’s also available at bookstores around the city, as well as other shops that sell maps and outdoor gear. Members of the Path Wanderers get a $1 discount if they buy maps directly from the association. See the BPWA website at www.berkeleypaths.org.
If you’d like to get a firsthand introduction to the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association—now 500 members strong—and its activities, consider attending the BPWA annual general meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m., at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St.
The featured speaker will be Jonathan Chester, local photographer and author most recently of Berkeley Rocks—Building with Nature. Illustrated with color photos, the book highlights the prominent rock outcroppings that stud the city’s Northside parks and neighborhoods and discusses the ways in which pioneering architects, landscape designers and developers artfully incorporated the local geology into their plans and works.