Parks in South Berkeley will be the focus of a special meeting of the new Parks and Waterfront Commission to be held on Wednesday October 16 at the South Berkeley Branch Library,1901 Russell Street at ML King Way, from 6-7:30 pm.
The public is invited to discuss ideas for improving the City’s parks, pools, community centers, marina, and camps. Please attend and share your ideas about the future of our parks and facilities. The Commission is especially interested in hearing from the African American, Latino, and other minority communities about their park use and recreational needs. All neighbors are warmly welcome; childcare will be provided.
South Berkeley facilities include Willard Park and Willard Swim Center, Oak Park, Monkey Island, Greg Brown, Grove, Bateman Mall, Halcyon Commons, The 63rd Street and Prince Street Mini-Parks, and the LeConte, Malcolm X, and John Muir Schools Parks.
Concerns about other parks or pools can be addressed by members of the public who missed the two prior neighborhood meetings.
These meetings each attracted about forty citizens who spoke to all nine commissioners and three staff members. Chairman Jim McGrath began with a statement of budget constraints that have resulted in the loss of 32 parks positions over the last ten years and a backlog of approximately $40 million in maintenance projects and then asked people to focus on the needs of their favorite parks. The responses ranged from small adjustments such as replacing basketball nets at Strawberry Park, and changing the locale of senior aerobics to removing the barrels adjacent to the steps of King Park and installing toilets there and at Indian Rock.
At the first meeting Doug Fielding, the chairperson of the Association of Sports Field Users, told the Commission that existing facilities had to be better maintained before new facilities or capital projects could be undertaken and that the Parks department was understaffed.
But Berkeley citizens have big dreams. Two major projects held the attention of the second meeting: the rebuilding of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, which the Commission has endorsed, and the potential of building better pool facilities.
Creating a culture of volunteerism was another subject of the second meeting. Commissioner Michael Boland, the chief planner of the Presidio Trust, said that they have over 6,000 volunteers who have contributed 65,000 hours to various projects, including the rebuilding of Crissy Field. He said that field staff need to be trained to work with volunteers.
Commissioner Susan McKay recorded all comments, which will be considered in future discussions.
Community members who are unable to attend the public meetings may submit written comments by October 30, 2013 to Roger Miller, Secretary, Parks and Waterfront Commission, 2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the City’s system of parks and facilities is available at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/PRW/
Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley