The seasonal Burrowing Owl preserve in the northeast corner of the park has been reopened to the public and the artwork there is now again accessible to humans. The circular stone seating area at the south end of this corner was completed as a work of public art entitled “Opening Circle” in 2011. Jeffrey Reed and Jennifer Madden were the artists. The work was funded by the Open Circle Foundation founded by Dorothy Weicker, and produced jointly with the City of Berkeley Public Art Program. It is the third work of public art in the park, joining the Cesar Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar high on the western ridge and “Sky Window,”the blue steel sculpture on the west side path.
During the winter season, approximately October through April, the northeast corner of the park is fenced off as a Burrowing Owl preserve. In recent years the number of these charming visitors has dwindled, and this past December, one Burrowing Owl was found dead not far from the area, probably killed by a loose dog. The wet weather has not helped, either, as it has produced vigorous growth of grass and weeds, which the owls find uninviting. These birds can fly but prefer to hunt on foot where ground cover is low.
The newly reopened area offers not only a stylish rustic seating circle for groups of up to about twenty, but also a viewpoint all along the park’s western shore looking south, and a vista into the eastern and northern Bay. It’s a great spot for seeing birds. A narrow social trail leads north from the seating area along the edge of the rip-rap to an asphalt path, a paved circle, and a short paved perimeter path leading west. These paved paths show numerous cracks where vegetation has penetrated. The purpose of the paved circle escapes me entirely, but there it is.
If nothing else, removal of the wire fence closing this area eliminates a serious hazard, as the horizontal wires were practically invisible even in daylight, and a bicyclist could well crash into them in twilight and suffer serious injury. In some past years, the area remained closed to humans during the summer months. In the summer of 2015, the fence was vandalized and breached; see bottom photos below.