A free informative walk around troubled Aquatic Park in Berkeley is scheduled for Saturday morning September 22 from 10 to 12:30. The two mile walk, guided by Mark Liolios of EGRET, departs from the Waterside Café at 84 Bolivar Drive, opposite Pexxikon, and will circle the Park clockwise, ending at Touchdown Plaza in front of the new Dona Spring Animal Shelter at the base of the pedestrian bridge.
The walk is designed to acquaint members of the community with the features and problems of the Park and to facilitate participation in three upcoming public processes: the proposed land marking of historical features, the upcoming draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the Aquatic Park Improvement Program, and the zoning of adjacent parcels under the West Berkeley Project.
The Waterside Café has outdoor seating only, so participants should come prepared for the weather. Appropriate gear for the walk are layers of clothing, a small backpack to store shed items as the day warms, sun hat and/or glasses, walking shoes, and a water bottle. The path is paved and accessible to wheelchairs, bikes, and skateboards. In a few places, the walk departs from the road onto areas that are not wheel accessible, but one guide will remain on the paved walk to describe those features to the disabled.
Aquatic Park is frequently in the news, but not favorably. The most recent negative coverage was a “Chronicle Watch” item in the San Francisco Chronicle that called Aquatic Park “Berkeley’s Civic Eyesore” because of the summer algae growth, especially dense at the north end this time of year.
Aquatic Park is Berkeley’s largest city park, but arguably its most neglected. An attempt to develop a master plan for the Park began in 1990, and although a draft was prepared and accepted, it was not approved for environmental review and is not available. The most detailed professional description of the Park is the Natural Resource Management Study of 2003.
In 2007, $1.5 million designated for the sound wall was transferred to the Ed Roberts campus, and all attempts to build a suitable barrier ceased with the death eight months later of Councilmember Dona Spring, its most prominent advocate.
Two months ago, environmentalists tried to get a new main storm water pipe specified in a bond measure (Measure M) but failed to garner sufficient support from the City Council, who decided instead to emphasize the paving of streets. Citizens for East Shore Parks and the Sierra Club advocate enlargement of the Potter Creek storm drain, known as Option 1 in the Watershed Management Plan, because that would divert polluted storm water from the lagoons, a habitat for over 70 bird species, and prevent flooding of south and west Berkeley. The current drainage is a too narrow funnel that overflows during heavy rains.
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