At this juncture, with the lawsuit against the university pending, it is a good time to remind everyone as to exactly why such worldwide support exists for the preservation of the oak grove near Memorial Stadium, and why the city must continue the lawsuit against the university. This irreplaceable ecological treasure must be saved.
The supporters of the grove are a local, national and international coalition of community leaders, government officials, religious leaders, non-profit organizations, environmentalists, native American leaders, UC students, employees, professors and faculty members. We represent tens of thousands of Berkeley citizens. We are supported by the Sierra Club. We are supported by the California Native Plant Society. We are supported by The California Oak Foundation. We are united in our determination to insure that this magnificent Oak Grove is preserved. This determination was reflected in the filing of four separate lawsuits against the University in 2006, to halt it’s planned destruction of the Grove.
The university intends to cut down 38 perfectly healthy, mature coast live oaks. Five of these oaks predate, the stadium, one of which is over 200 years old. (Ironically, it is against Berkeley city law to cut down mature coast live oaks within city limits.) The grove provides habitat for dozens of bird and wildlife species. According to Ignacio Chapela, a professor of environmental science at UC Berkeley, the grove provides a wildlife corridor between two sections of Strawberry Canyon. Wild red fox have reportedly been seen in the grove. Native oaks support the most complex terrestrial ecosystem in California. The California Native Plant Society has stated that oak grove is a “thriving re-seeding ecosystem.” The society also states that the grove is “an essential gene bank for the coast live oak.”
Indisputable evidence exists indicating the grove to be the site of an ancient Native American burial ground. Native American community leaders have come together to express that the destruction of the grove should be considered as a desecration and a hate crime.
All earthquake fault charts clearly indicate that the Memorial Stadium does in fact, sit atop the Hayward fault. Seismologists widely agree that the next “big one” will come soon and that it will certainly be along the Hayward fault. The notion of placing a new structure upon that fault is insane.
Those advocating the preservation of the grove do not, and have never opposed the construction of a new university sports training facility. We simply insist that construction take place elsewhere. There are many viable proposed alternative sites. We can have both new gyms and old trees. It is not necessary to destroy a beautiful and historical grove. It is not necessary to place students in harms way. We can exercise compassion and wisdom by preserving the oak grove for future generations.
I urge our local elected officials to continue the lawsuit against the university and to go forward with any necessary appeals as soon as possible. The city must stay the course. This grove must be saved.
Katlin Moore is a Berkeley resident.