Splash Pad: Past, Present, Future

Splash Pad Park will reach a milestone — it’s 20-year Anniversary in October 2023 — and I’m hoping we can celebrate with events honoring designer Walter Hood and all the folks who helped get the park built, as well as those who have done their very best to maintain, promote, and otherwise support it ever since. If you’re not already aware of the park’s history, we’d highly recommend SplashPad.org’s “About” page, which focuses mainly on the circumstances that led up to the construction of the new park.

As for the present, eighteen years of wear and tear are quite evident. I’d suggest that we can best honor Walter by implementing a clean-up campaign between now and October 2023 with an end result that doesn’t have to make the park look like new but will, at a minimum, demonstrate that we as a community recognize Walter’s worldwide stature and place a high value on having public spaces that we can be proud of. The good news is that one of the biggest infrastructure issues was addressed last year. Thanks to Council President Nikki Bas Fortunato’s efforts, with support from the City Administrator’s office, all the park lighting has already been upgraded and replaced.

A couple of weeks ago, Nikki organized a tour of all the parks in District 2 for Oakland’s new Public Works Director, Harold Duffey. I had the honor of leading the Splash Pad tour, and after talking about the park’s history and how it’s benefiting the community as a whole, I also pointed out the remaining major infrastructure issues, including: long-standing damage to the Ipe Wood decking in the plaza; at least two date palms that are infected with Fusarium Wilt; major damage to one section of the asphalt roadway; and the eroded gravel beds paralleling the freeway that are a huge tripping hazard. If first impressions are any indication, I’m confident that Mr. Duffey is going to make sure that these problems get fixed–especially since Martin Tovar, Oakland’s Construction and Maintenance Supervisor has been extremely supportive and already has the screws in hand to repair the decking once adequate staffing is available. As for the gravel beds, Agricultural Institute of Marin CEO Andy Naja-Riese has pledged to start a fundraising campaign next year to replace the gravel with the same pavers that were used in the plaza. The pavers were in Walter Hood’s original plans but were scrapped due to a very tight budget. As much as possible, we need to continue lobbying for repairs and make ourselves available whenever volunteer assistance is needed.

The park’s landscaping (which was installed by volunteers in 2003 and has been maintained by volunteers ever since) is not nearly as pristine and formal as it once was, but the Red and Yellow Twig Dogwoods that were overwhelmed by weeds and lack of adequate irrigation have been replaced by California Native plants, including flowering perennials. The same goes for two fern beds that harbored a large colony of rats. Mary Jo Sutton (dubbed the “Plant Whisperer” in this superb 2017 article by Sarah Van Roo) is the driving force behind all the improvements and a wonder to behold. Her big problem, however, is that the size of the original California Native Garden has doubled, while the number of volunteers has decreased over time due to attrition. If you’re an accomplished gardener, you’d be welcomed with open arms; if you’re a newbie wanting to learn more (especially about native flora and fauna), you couldn’t ask for a better tutor. If you’re willing to give it a try, please send Mary Jo an email and she’ll add you to her mailing list. The next 4th Sunday work day is scheduled from 9 am-noon on December 26.

The other entity that needs to be highlighted as part and parcel of the park’s past, present, and future is the Grand Lake Farmers Market, which has turned out to be a draw for neighborhood residents and attendees from all over the Bay Area. The market’s success has always provided community benefits but has done so exponentially more since Andy Naja-Riese was hired as AIM’s CEO two years ago.  The other side of the coin is that the market has also been problematic in terms of wear and tear to the park, parking and traffic issues, and complaints from some local businesses who are negatively impacted on Saturdays.  Since 2007, when Pat Kernighan appointed him Chair of the Farmers Market Citizens Advisory Committee, Jerry Barclay has been at the forefront of those discussions, culminating this July in AIM’s signing a new five-year operating agreement with the City of Oakland.

With that feather in his cap, Jerry announced last week that he is tendering his resignation due to other obligations. In doing so, he said this:

I served under Pat as well as Abel Guillén and Nikki Fortunato-Bas. I have great appreciation for each of them in supporting the Grand Lake Farmers Market and Splash Pad Park, recognizing what important assets they are to the Oakland community. I gained insights into how hard our council representatives work and the challenges the City constantly faces. They deserve appreciation from all of us. I learned a lot about the plight of farmers and how important local markets are for them. I have always considered the support that shopping at Farmers Markets provides to be as much about land use and preservation of farmlands – and of course the farmers themselves – than just having access to nutritional and delicious food.

In a separate email to members of the Advisory Committee, this is the road map that he proposed and hopefully his successors will be able to implement:

I believe the GLFM is a tremendous community asset that holds much promise to become even better and more community related – and supported. Importantly, AIM is a stronger partner than ever with increasing engagement with the Oakland community.

In my opinion the top opportunities and priorities for the Market are:

  • Increase involvement with/between local businesses and the Market.
  • Leverage AIM’s resources for outreach to the local business community.
  • Seek creative solutions to implement deferred maintenance of the park.
  • Ensure that the City provides appropriate and adequate administration of the AIM agreement and administrator(s) understand issues and challenges of the Market and park.
  • Emphasize importance of community benefits of the Market.
  • Increase active participation and support by local residents.

Although Jerry is stepping down from a leadership role, his love for the market is unabated and you’ll be seeing him there on most Saturday mornings.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for next month’s News when we’ll be reporting on the present status and future prospects for the Splash Pad News.

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.



2 responses to “Splash Pad: Past, Present, Future”

  1. Looks beautiful. Now, if we could just get that guy and his trash he sets out from under the freeway.

    1. Ken Katz Avatar

      Janis, Regarding the mess under the freeway, multiple individuals filed SeeClickFix complaints this week and CouncilPresident Nikki Bas Fortunato is trying to facilitate the clean-up.