“Let A Thousand Parks Bloom.” The People’s Park mural depicts ancestral spirits of Native Americans and activists who inspired the creation of the Park. Lydia Gans photo

by Arthur Fonseca

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]y some accounts, it was as early as 4 a.m. on Dec. 28 that UC Berkeley Police and contracted landscape workers hired by UCB started setting up orange plastic fencing around the west end of People’s Park. By 2 p.m., the damage had been done: Bulldozers, backhoes and bobcats, chainsaws and chippers.
The berms of pavement lifted by activists in 1979 and stacked next to both the Dwight and Haste sidewalks as a reminder of our history were leveled. Dozens of mature plants tended by community gardeners were turned to mulch. Long-existing pathways were indiscriminately blocked off with no consideration for handicapped access.
Perhaps worst of all was the indiscriminate vandalism of a volunteer-built structure that existed along the fence line on the west side of the Park, starting near the northwest corner and running southwards about 72 feet. This structure, called a “pergola,” was built by volunteers in 1999 and 2000 out of the old-growth redwood lumber that had been recycled from the University’s ill-fated volleyball courts.
The University of California had required an incredibly involved and drawn-out approval process for the pergola structure that took almost a year to accomplish. Both the City of Berkeley Planning Department and University of California Landscape Architect Jim Horner signed off on the project. The structure was inspected after it was completed and passed, also by Jim Horner.
That the University sent workers in the middle of the night and chain-sawed off the trellis portion of the pergola, killing both a mature grape vine and a mature kiwi vine in the process, was dreadful.
That they ran the old-growth redwood that had been transformed by volunteers from a volleyball court to a pergola through a wood chipper before anything could be done about it was shocking.
That they carried out their vandalism without once notifying any of the many volunteers who had worked on that project about their plans, although they themselves had required the volunteer activists to go by the letter of the book, was a rape.
There is some possibility of redress, perhaps a civil case against the University of California, as the project was documented thoroughly from beginning to end.
Park activists are working on a benefit to be held at the Art House Gallery And Cultural Center at 2905 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, from 6-10 p.m. It will feature performances by Phoenix, Antioquia, Andrea Prichett and Friends, and Food Not Bombs! For information about the benefit, contact: (510) 830-7787.