Splash Pad: Past, Present, Future — Part 2

Last month, I wrote about Splash Pad Park with an eye to its 20th anniversary in October 2023. This month’s follow-up discussion focuses on the past, present, and future of the SplashPad.org website and its namesake publication, The Splash Pad News. Each originated in late 1999 when the newly created Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum began discussing improvements to the existing blighted park that was essentially designed by CalTrans as a glorified traffic island and not much more. Responses to a survey SPNF circulated regarding usage and design introduced us to an impressive list of individuals with great ideas and/or professional credentials whose contributions to the Design and Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committees  are cited in the Splash Pad About Page.  Jon Barrilleaux was one of the individuals who was drafted as a member of the latter committee. Since all my emails prior to 2006 were lost when my computer crashed years ago, I gave Jon a call earlier this week. He replied by forwarding the very first message he  received from SPNF on January 18, 2000. 

Hi Jon,

Thanks for putting so much time and thought into your response to our questionnaire. I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to be creative and look outside the box. Can I add your e-mail address to our contact list? Next month, we will divide into subcommittees and begin to draw up plans. Would love to see you involved, if you have the time and interest.

As it turns out, Jon’s contributions to the Traffic Pedestrian Safety Committee were secondary to his contributions as a Software Engineer. It was Jon who built the first Splash Pad website, but the more difficult part was teaching me the most rudimentary elements of html that allowed me to update the website. By October 2000, we published what appears to be the first Splash Pad News:

In case you missed it, the Chalk Festival was a huge success. The art work was so well received we got permission from Caltrans to preserve the six drawings that were done on pillars under the freeway. It really brightens up the space and illustrates the value of doing more art work as part of the long range Splash Pad project. Speaking of which, Danny Wan ( the new District 2 council member) is anxious to see the project underway as soon as possible. Representatives of the Splash Pad Forum will be meeting with him this week along with staff from the Life Enrichment Agency and the Department of Public Works.  CONTINUE READING.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2002, by which time the focus of the website had turned to fundraising for the Splash Pad fountain:

The Splash Pad Fountain fundraising campaign is shifting into high gear with the addition of several new members to our steering committee. Current receipts total about $8000 with lots more in the pipeline, but still well short of our $50,000 to $60,000 goal. The latter amount is being sought in the hopes of establishing a reserve account that could be used for long-term maintenance, if necessary.We have also established tiered levels of recognition that will allow us to appropriately acknowledge donations in excess of $500.  Gordon Shell, a long-time park advocate and Grand Avenue booster, got the ball rolling with a very generous $1000 contribution.  CONTINUE READING

January 2004 marked a milestone as the Splash Pad group now boasted its own domain as demonstrated by this excerpt from that month’s News:  “Thanks to the efforts of David Gans and Michael Zelner. Our new URL is http;//www.splashpad.org.”

As of January 2006, we were apparently still mailing copies of the news to subscribers, but it was also posted on the website just below the header pictured above. A brief excerpt is included below, but we’ve also reconstructed the entire issue (minus working links), which you can view by clicking on the “continue reading” link. 

  • There will be a final Tour on Saturday, January 21 to point out the trees that are scheduled for removal as part of the Measure DD improvements to Lake Merritt. Please check out the press release from the City Administrator’s office for more information.
  • Substandard maintenance has been a huge, ongoing problem in the Oakland Parks system. At least part of this problem has been due to inadequate funding. Council Members Jean Quan and Jane Brunner have issued an invitation for a public meeting at the Lakeside Garden Center on Wednesday, January 25 beginning at 7 p.m. to discuss the possibility of going to voters…   CONTINUE READING

By February 2009, the content was much like you’d expect to see in today’s news with reporting on neighborhood businesses, a community calendar, and so forth.  I was, however, still the sole contributor and subscribers mostly read the news via email — not from the website. 

Remember me! I’m the guy who used to put out this newsletter once a month on a fairly regular basis. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the last edition was December 18. As a practitioner of three dot journalism, I have reason to worry as my periods are almost one month late. The Golden State Warriors’ TV broadcasts share part of the blame since two or three nights each week (when I might otherwise be writing) are already occupied.    CONTINUE READING

Beginning in early 2013, the blast email no longer included the news. Instead, subscribers had to click on a link. The more consequential changes, however, came in September of that year, when Raul Audelo volunteered to convert the newsletter and website to WordPress prompting me to write this:

When a high school friend of mine returned from a concert in LA circa 1960, she remarked that Joan Baez was amazing but the introductory act was a weird guy that nobody had ever heard of and his lyrics were totally unintelligible. Within a very few years, Bob Dylan’s diction improved to the point that we all knew that “the times they were a changin”.

I’m pleased to report that the same applies to the Splash Pad website and newsletter. The most dramatic change to the latter is in the masthead that now incorporates a freeway-level view of Splash Pad Park compliments of Google Maps. In addition, you may note some subtle improvements in the fonts and formatting that improve readability. These were achieved with a bit of strategic cutting and pasting from an online html tutorial.

The changes to the SplashPad.org website include some alterations to the home page but more importantly, we now have a 10th Anniversary blog and thanks to “LZ” — a long-time subscriber and Adams Point resident — we now have a “Grand Avenue West of 580” blog, as well. These changes reflect some of the input I’ve received from website-guru Raul Audelo, and represent a baby step towards a website that will eventually become far more interactive with regular changes in content.

For the following three years, Liane Zimny (aka: LZ) and I remained the sole contributors, despite occasional requests for additional volunteer staffing. In January of 2017, I wrote:

LZ, who writes the Grand Avenue West of 580 blog, was the first (and so far only) individual to respond to previous requests for assistance.  If you’re motivated to help preserve the newsletter as a Grand Lake community resource, please send us an email.

Of the nine people who responded to that appeal, five ended up writing for the news.

  • Eric Hughes, a fine musician in his own right, assembled several music playlists–one of which  assembled a diverse group of songs that includes everything from Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On to Woody Guthrie’s Deportees to Beyoncé’s Freedom. He’s also reported on neighborhood clean-ups, the Grand Lake Neighbor’s council that he co-chairs, and a Music 2 Cook By event that he and his wife participated in.  
  • Sarah Van Roo wrote a dynamite 2017 profile of Mary Jo Sutton, the leader of Splash Pad Park’s Grand Crew volunteer team.
  • Kathleen Boergers has reported on Peet’s Coffee’s expanded space on Lakeshore and wrote four other stories. 
  • Keila Diehl wrote four articles–the first of which “It Takes a Collage reported on a multitude of neighborhood retailers who were casualties of gentrification and online competition. Keila continues to serve as an editor, correcting grammar and punctuation and serving as a sounding-board for story ideas. 
  • Sheila McCormick initially posted a series of seven neighborhood walks. She’s also written about the East Bay Children’s Book Project and various subjects related to Haddon Hill. Currently, Sheila manages the Event Calendar. 

Other contributors over the past several years include the following:

  • In 2017, David Gans wrote an insightful profile of C. J. Hirschfield.
  • in November 2020, C. J. returned the favor.  C. J. has been contributing a series of wonderful stories, including a report on the Corpse Flower that bloomed in Adams Point, but it was her first-hand Remembrance of the Festival at the Lake that reigns as the best-read Splash Pad article of all time.
  • Andy Naja-Riese has contributed several articles, including an outline of AIM’S Path to Racial Equity
  • Margo Rosenbaum contributed only one story (about Colonial Donuts), but it was particularly memorable since she was still a student at Piedmont High. Margo has since been named the Managing Editor of the California Aggie and served as a Summer Intern for the Sacramento Bee
  • Another one-time contributor was Gary Meyer who wrote “Oakland is on a Roll” for the February 2018 edition. Gary was a co-founder of Landmark Theaters and Co-Director of the Telluride Film Festival.
  • Farmers Market Manager Dan Foster has been really conscientious about providing a monthly market update, which is really appreciated.
  • Kira Pascoe’s superb posts on the Lakeshore BID website couldn’t be more informative and supportive of the businesses on Lakeshore and Lake Park and we are thrilled to be able to share a link with our subscribers. 
  • We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention that Anca Mosoiu and Eve Lurie facilitated the transfer of our hosting service to locally owned Site District several years back, and Eve helps us out when we’re in a pinch. 

That’s our look at the past and current status. As for the immediate future, this month’s News happens to be the skimpiest in a very long time, but in the next couple of months, we’re expecting to publish an article by Jerry Barclay about Landscape Architect David Thorne and C. J. has promised an article about Clausen House. As for me, I’m mulling over an article documenting how my immediate neighborhood has changed over the past fifty years and, as time permits, I’m also hoping to add all the Splash Pad News editions prior to 2013 to our WordPress archives. If you have story ideas and/or are interested in reporting, please send us an email or leave a comment below. 

Long term, I’m ready to retire and would prefer to do so in conjunction with Splash Pad Park’s 20th Anniversary in October of 2023. To the extent that the website and the monthly news provide historical context; help support local businesses; and promote community involvement, I’m hoping that one way or another both can continue to exist and potentially become more widely read and far more of an asset than they are now. I’m not sure how we go about making that transition, but let’s the start the conversation.  

 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.