Berkeley City Council member Linda Maio and former Parks and Waterfront commissioner Toni Mester visited the park on Saturday afternoon and took a short walk beginning at the Cesar Chavez memorial solar calendar. Notable at the calendar was the vandalism damage, still not repaired, and the frequent incursions of loose dogs. No dogs are allowed off leash in the calendar or on the dirt path leading up to it. Mester and I each took photos of more than half a dozen loose dogs in the calendar or on the path. Maio personally spoke to a couple of dog owners with loose dogs and explained to them that dogs were not allowed off leash here. The answer was, we didn’t know, there aren’t any signs.
This was true. We walked down to the intersection where multiple paths meet and there was only one sign in the approximate center of the junction, vaguely marking the exit and entry to the off leash dog area. There was no signage indicating that the uphill trail to the solar calendar was closed to off-leash dogs, while the lower path was OK. Park management has not done an adequate job with signage.
We then walked down into the off-leash dog area and saw a spread of about 60 or more white plastic bags containing vegetation that volunteers had raked up that morning. At planning meetings for foxtail removal, it had been decided that volunteers would use snips or scissors to cut the heads off the barley plants that make foxtails. Park management decided instead, without prior notice, to buzz-cut the area, with the mower blades set as low as they would go. Not only the offensive barley, but also beneficial native grasses and everything else got razed. Volunteers, including Mester herself, were issued rakes instead of snips, and dragged the cuttings together into the bags.
As we watched, a couple of dogs found the bags fascinating and started ripping away at them. Their owners intervened. The bags were hauled away before Sunday afternoon.
I had to cut my visit short to work on a family birthday party and didn’t get a chance to chat with Maio more deeply. The park is in her City Council district (District 1), so she has direct responsibility for it. She clearly understands the problem with loose dogs and inadequate signage in this area. I look forward to seeing what progress is made on this problem.