A bulldozer destroys trees and plants in the community garden at People’s Park in Berkeley. Carol Denney photo


by Carol Denney

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ulldozers plowed through the west end of People’s Park on December 18, turning decades of community garden into rubble. Dozens of police watched as crews tossed mountains of healthy plants and a community-built arbor into dumpsters, leaving behind stripped earth.
A young student who claimed to be volunteering as a police assistant handed out University of California fliers which stated, “In response to park users and neighbor concerns, we are doing maintenance work to address the rat infestation and safety issues in People’s Park.”
A KTVU Channel Two news report stated that the trees in the west end were being removed to improve the views for the UC students who will someday inhabit the unfinished dormitory building currently being built in the Anna Head parking lot.
Park historians will note that the bulldozers destroyed decades-old trees and shrubs planted by community volunteers in the 1970s in response to the University of California’s effort to transform the west end of People’s Park into an asphalt fee lot. The asphalt parking lot, installed without community input, lasted only a few weeks before community volunteers tore it out and replaced it with a garden.
Those who have gardened for years in the park called the UC’s move an obscenity. None of the People’s Park Community Advisory Board members were informed about the project, a board which was convened years ago specifically to make certain the community was kept informed about park issues.
Arthur Fonseca said that the bulldozing was “worse than the volleyball courts” — another ill-fated project the university tried to build in 1991 — because the west end represented decades of dedicated community work on various gardens, fruit trees, pergolas, grape arbors, and benches.
The UC’s destruction in the west end included the Council Grove, a small circle of trees which were the setting for many of the early People’s Park council meetings, which traditionally could only take place in the park itself.

There Were Poems

by Carol Denney

there were poems
pasted on painted fish
hanging in the treetops
of the trees now gone
in People’s Park
poems which floated
over the night
then the morning
then the plastic netting
then the bulldozers
until they fell
among the leaves
and the branches
and were hauled away
to the woodchipper


(born 1969)

by Claire J. Baker

Where will Food Not Bombs go
if driven out of People’s Park —
do potato salad and spaghetti
saunter over to Center or Bancroft?
What about lemonade and coffee —
do they trickle down the drain
toward Kittredge as movie-goers
stroll starry-eyed by?
People’s Park sans the real people
who won it over to start
would be a block of un-real estate
gone homeless, spirit lost.