by Terri Compost
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he University of California’s recent bulldozer “maintenance” in People’s Park in Berkeley is problematic in several ways. First, it is a violation of trust and respect. The University snuck into People’s Park in the early hours on December 28, and their bulldozers plowed through the west end of the Park, and destroyed the community garden — with no notice to the community and longtime Park volunteers.
The pergola, or trellis, in the west end of People’s Park, which UC officials rather mysteriously decapitated, was designed and agreed upon during almost a year of meetings with University architects and the volunteers who built it. And the information that UC officials are providing for their recent attack is misleading, if not outright falsehood. I’ll eat my hat if People’s Park sports a native grass and poppy prairie. And how does destroying a trellis deal with rats? Please!
Secondly, the University of California has destroyed precious natural resources that were purchased, planted and tended by volunteers. The list of food-producing plants destroyed in the bulldozer assault include: plum trees, native manzanita, olive, grape vines, kiwi plants, maguay, nopales cactus, and a mature rose bush, as well as beautiful plants like pink amaryliss bulb flowers, pyrocantha and a palm-like plant donated to the Park by Mario and Rosalinda that was growing by the entrance to their property in the back of the Park. It will take years to replace the food and beauty those plants were producing.
Thirdly, UC officials are trying to erase history. The incursion is a test to see if the People will hold this place as the sacred ground we liberated from the folly of UC officials in 1969 and have held all these years. Bulldozing is not user development.
The pergola trellis, that was cut in half, was made out of the old-growth redwood that was recycled from the volleyball court fiasco of 1991. Volunteers worked with UC architects until UC officials were satisfied with the earthquake safety of the trellis. It beautified the park and held native grapes, jasmine and kiwi vines. It was a beautiful example of recycling — recreating and providing healing from the wound that the volleyball court made on People’s Park and the community.
Also, the berms that were removed were actually piles of asphalt that were ripped up by people in 1979 when the University lied, then, about a free parking lot. And the Council Grove surrounded by the plum trees has long been the Park’s best meeting place. These are literally testaments of our history that were destroyed.
The berms created a peaceful place between two busy streets. They were a feature that good landscape designers desire. The University is trying to implement control and “security.” It is up to us to decide if we want recreational areas to resemble prison yards or be living, inspiring, beautiful refuges.
Well, now there is a void. I hope people will rise to the challenge and recreate with their friends and their own dreams. Viva People’s Park.