Splash Pad Park Update – July 2023

In a bustling location with no fencing and 24 hour per day access, Splash Pad Park has always been vulnerable but in the past twenty years we’d never previously witnessed the kind of rampant destruction that occurred over the last several weeks. For starters, two metal plates bolted to the top of the wall behind the fountain were stolen for scrap causing the water level to drop precipitously and forcing the city to turn the fountain off. Kids showing up at the Farmers Market in bathing suits weren’t happy campers but this Saturday, the now dry wall did become a canvas for some chalk art. The good news is that the perpetrator is painfully aware that OPD has his name and description and he’s unlikely to set foot or motor scooter in the park anytime soon. That said, the Public Works Department is so terribly understaffed and underfunded, it may take months to get the fountain up and operating once again — a subject we’ll be writing about in depth next month.

Unfortunately, what’s happened to the California Native Community Garden which volunteers originally planted in 2003 is far, far worse. This is how Mary Jo Sutton, the volunteer crew coordinator for over eight years during which she’s doubled the garden’s size, described the mayhem:

 In the past 2 weeks someone has been coming during evening hours and destroying many of the flowering plants. They are ripped to shreds or stomped to bits. Large thick branches are being broken. The victims are all larger mature plants—Flannel Bush, sages, channel island mallows, fried egg poppies, and a Redbud Tree. It is extremely sad to see. Those plants were put in as babies several years ago and were nurtured to maturity. Sigh- every day I go down to see what is newly missing or damaged. So if anyone wants to join us on one of our volunteer days, we will begin to replant what was lost and continue much needed weeding. We work the 4th Sunday of each month. Some people come for an hour and others stay the whole session. The next date is Sunday, July 23 from 9:00am–noon. Tools, gloves and kneeling pads are provided but bring your own if you prefer.

I’d add that this comes at a critical time as we were hoping to spruce up the park in time for its 20th anniversary in October. The situation is further complicated by an abundance of weeds attributed in part to a drop in volunteer participation during the pandemic but also due to three months of heavy rains that cancelled work days and allowed the weeds to thrive as never before. Hope to see you on the 23rd.

Editor’s Note: Ken Katz founded the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum in late 1999 and, in his role as Chair, coordinated the community efforts to lobby for a new park and subsequently served as a liaison to the City of Oakland and to Walter Hood’s office during the planning process. The first Splash Pad Newsletters were emailed beginning circa 2006. Currently, he acts as a contributor to—and publisher of—the monthly Splash Pad News. Keila Diehl proofreads all the copy, filters content as needed, and makes everyone involved look good.