The city of Berkeley’s Parks, Recreation & Waterfront department is highlighting Indigenous voices through their newest public space. The city unveiled the newly renovated Ohlone Park to residents with a ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday.
The entire upper park space is undergoing renovations, which include new playgrounds, a mural highlighting Indigenous peoples, a garden and additional open space, according to Scott Ferris, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation & Waterfront department.
Ohlone Park opened two new playgrounds, one for children aged two to five and another for children aged five to twelve, Ferris said.
Though renovations for the playgrounds have been completed, Ferris noted that other parts of the park are still undergoing construction.
Other landscape areas of the park are fenced off to be sodded for grass, according to Ferris. There will be a 90 to 120 day establishment period for landscaping.
In addition to a new garden, the mural will be painted in the northwest corner of the park, accompanied by benches and a grinding stone, Ferris said. The piece will not be completed until early next summer.
Ohlone Park, named after the people Indigenous to the area, will continue to honor the land through the mural commissioned by Indigenous artist Jean LaMarr, Ferris added.
The park currently displays Lamarr’s previous murals, which celebrate Indigenous peoples’ history in the Bay Area.
According to Ferris, the new mural will call for a larger celebration to welcome the park’s full completion. The rest of the park is expected to open in another three to four months.
The renovation of Ohlone Park was carefully planned with community input, Ferris noted.
“We talked to the community about where the money would go, (with) meetings about what they wanted to see in the park,” Ferris said. “(Originally,) the two to five and five to twelve play areas were separated at different ends of the park, (but the community suggested) putting them together — if you have two young kids, you can’t watch them both if the play areas are separate, so we combined the play areas.”
Ferris remarked on the community’s emphasis to create a “natural” look to the park while incorporating challenging playground equipment. He noted the difficulty of creating wood-based structures as opposed to plastic, citing community meetings to discuss the design and planning process of the park.
The Ohlone Park renovation was given $1.1 million in total funding, Ferris noted. Most of the funding came from Measure T1 and Measure FF. Ferris said the city’s 2014 increase of parks taxes gave Parks and Recreation a boost in funding.
He also noted that the rest of the park’s funding of $200,000 was allocated from the Capital Improvement Program fund.
“Starting from the beginning, there was a community process in 2018 trying to determine what portion of Ohlone Park the money would go to,” he said.