Users of People’s Park met Sunday to discuss the future of the berms which UC wants to remove on both ends of the Community Garden in the park.
More community input, park users decided, was important before any action was taken to remove the berms. Users also said on Sunday that removing the berms would hurt the university’s relationship with the community.
In an effort to help the police to see through the park without getting out of their cars, the university recently laid out a plan to bulldoze the berms.
At a People’s Park Community Advisory Board meeting last week, UC and the Berkeley police departments explained the need to thin the vegetation in order to allow the police to see through the trees.
“Both Chief Dough Hambleton and the UCBPD have repeatedly said that the dense vegetation in the park makes it difficult to patrol that area,” said Irene Hegarty, UC Berkeley community relations director. “The foliage in the west end is particularly dense which allows drug use to carry on.”
Hegarty added that no decision had been made yet about the future of the berms.
“At the last advisory board meeting, we had a discussion on what action might be taken,” she said. “At the next advisory board meeting on Dec. 4, the board will give advice about what could be done to create a sightline for the police. They might or might not take any action. But nothing will be done before that meeting.”
The university has begun thinning and pruning some of the vegetation in the park.
“We are not sure whether the destruction of the berms would help in reducing crime,” said Terri Compost, a Berkeley naturalist who attended the meeting.
The park users decided to prepare a plan that would include establishing a free store in the park and social workers who would provide counseling to the homeless.
“The free store would act as a replacement of the free box and give fair access to resources,” said Compost. “This would help to reduce crime. We are ready to look at possibilities that would help re-design the edges to make them look attractive, but everything should be done through community involvement. The park should not be like a prison yard.”
Hegarty said that while some community members wanted the park to remain exactly the way it was, there were others who wanted changes that would help make it a safe place to visit.