What’s up at Splash Pad Park?

By Ken Katz

In an August 2023 article about Oakland’s long-time overdependence on volunteers, I shared a laundry list of major infrastructure issues that needed to be addressed in Splash Pad Park. In an article the following month, I concluded that celebrating the “20th Anniversary of the park’s opening in October of this year to honor Walter Hood makes no sense. Why celebrate a park that can’t be protected from vandals or properly maintained and as a result, has become something of an embarrassment?”  An Oaklandside article by C.J. Hirschfield in December, which reached a far wider audience, echoed the same themes and brought almost immediate results as the fountain was put back in operation within a day or two.

The one remaining major infrastructure issue that hasn’t been resolved is, what I’m convinced, a break in the irrigation line that runs under the plaza.  Once the rains have ceased and the ground has dried up, Keary Brink, the Park Supervisor for this district, has agreed to run tests to determine if there is a leak and how to address it.

Although I’d like to think that airing our “dirty linen” had a major impact, the improvements that we’ve seen over the past several months are most likely due in larger part to Public Works hiring 17 additional gardeners and 15 maintenance workers, as C.J. revealed in her December article.

Happily, the fountain is again working; the homeless encampment on Grand under the overpass now houses planters instead; and two newly-hired carpenters have temporarily replaced the Ipe decking, a product made of durable Brazilian hardwood, beneath the Yagere Coffee booth (that had been a tripping hazard for years) with heavy-duty plywood. On February 11, hard-working volunteers, shown above, removed the pea gravel underneath and a week later, the carpenters were able to fully replace the substructure. Once drain rock is in place, the original Ipe wood decking will be reinstalled.


While City Gardener Christian Boyle’s main responsibility is theMorcom Rose Garden, he and his assistant also maintain Splash Pad Park and the Mandana Green. Since he and his assistant are no longer responsible for the landscaped medians in the neighborhood, they’re now able to do more in the three parks than was feasible previously. This past week, they even squeezed in time to edge the lawns at the Mandana Green. For the record, the crew now assigned to the medians installed the above-mentioned planters on Grand and are regularly maintaining them.


Mary Jo Sutton and her 4th Sunday Grand Crew volunteers are also doing their part. The California Native Garden, which suffered from a lack of volunteers during the pandemic and repeated assaults last year from an unidentified individual, is beginning to come around and looking great with about two-thirds of the beds weeded, lots of new green foliage, and the iris beginning to bloom.


Overall, I’m pleased to say that the park is the cleanest and most attractive it’s been in years and I’m not nearly as pessimistic as I was back in September when I complained that the park was an embarrassment and not suitable for a celebration of the park’s 20th Anniversary.

Rainbow Fair announcement
Rainbow Fair to launch LGBTQ Cultural District on June 9

Our new goal is to make it as close to perfect as possible in time for the Oakland Rainbow Fair in the park on Sunday, June 9 when we will celebrate our Grand Lake Neighborhood’s status as Oakland’s new LGBTQ Cultural District.

To that end, we will be observing Earth Day in the park on Sunday, April 21 from 9 to Noon in cooperation with the Beatie Street Preschool. If you’d like to volunteer for the Earth Day event and/or the 4th Sunday work days, please email us.


By Ken Katz

Ken Katz

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 Splashpad Newsletters were emailed beginning circa 2006. He currently contributes to the monthly Splashpad News.


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