Oct 6 2013

Park Commission Hears Ideas for Improving Blair Park

– Hopes and ideas to shape up the landscape of long neglected Blair Park drew a number of speakers at the Piedmont Park  Commission meeting on October 2nd. –

The Commission first heard presentations by Bob Birkeland, landscape architect of Restoration Design Group (RDG) and arborist Jim Clarke of HortScience, Inc., the two firms collaborating on a landscape design plan for Blair Park. Birkeland and Clarke outlined their initial assessments of the park’s potential, its constraints, and the condition of many of its trees.

Among their conclusions: 41 of the 54 Monterey pines bordering Moraga Ave. are in poor condition and should be removed.  Lack of irrigation in the park is the key limiting factor to existing trees and to establishing new, drought-tolerant species. (Birkeland explained that Cemetery Creek is diverted into a culvert buried 22 feet below the park’s landfill.) The coast live oaks and California bay tree should be pruned, ivy vines should be severed at the base of tree trunks, and blackberry and ivy will require repeated control.

Audience members then described their concepts for improving Blair Park and what the park means to them.   Scenic Avenue resident Morissa Sherman, who makes award-winning plum and blackberry jams from Blair Park, said she hopes the park’s fruit trees will be retained. She also described her love of watching the park’s wildlife, from red-tailed hawks to foxes.  Peggy Esposito, who has lived on Moraga Avenue for 35 years, said she chose to live there because it was near an undeveloped area and to her the park “is much more than a gateway to Piedmont.” She proposed creating a bio-swale for park irrigation. She also told the Commission the Monterey pines were planted in the early 1970’s by students working one summer for Piedmont and that the trees were not what the City had ordered but were planted anyhow.

Piedmont resident Sinan Sabuncuoglu said, “Blair Park gives us a chance for a new way of stewarding the environment – to preserve and restore the rich ecology.” He suggested “involving everyone in planning a Bay-friendly landscape” possibly with community gardens and a plan that evolves over time with amenities such as a par course, bike path, bocce ball and horseshoes.  Scenic Avenue resident and former Piedmont Mayor Al Peters noted that the park is “a major, welcoming entryway to the City” and he said the tall story poles that were erected two years ago for the sports fields proposed by Piedmont Recreation Facilities Organization, should be removed. He also commented on the live oaks on the park’s hillside that are being killed by overgrowing ivy vines and said “I want the City to properly maintain the oak forest.”

The Park Commissioners expressed their agreement with the speakers and support for maintaining the park.  Commissioner Nancy Kent said she sees the need to assess the trees on the hillside slope and would like to enhance the slope for wildlife.  Commissioner Patty Siskind said, “I think everyone wants to improve the park, and it will definitely be pursued.”  She and Commissioner Anian Tunney were  concerned about the cost and source of irrigation.  Birkeland said there are number of possibilities, such as having a water truck drive across the street from the Corporation Yard. Commissioner Mary Geong said she was glad to hear that Friends of Moraga Canyon is willing to raise funds to help pay for park improvements, as one speaker had indicated. Commission Chair John Lenahan concluded, “We need to maintain the park. We will have a different and hopefully better Blair Park.”

A proposed landscape improvement plan for Blair Park is scheduled to be presented by RDG and HortScience at the December 12, 2013 meeting of the Park Commission.

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