Several of us supporters of the Rotary Nature Center (Rotary Nature Center Friends and the Community for Lake Merritt) came to the Oakland City Council special session on budget proposals from the Mayor and City Council President.
There were concerns from many quarters about the Mayor’s budget: from illegal dumping, city workers, homeless advocates, fire safety in the hills, to specific concerns about funding for various non-profits, and it’s lack of faith in priorities laid out by the community at large.
Our specific concern (not to diminish any others — in particular a solution to our homeless crisis is intimately tied to parks) was where parks positions which were to be cut. This has an impact on not only our concerns at Lake Merritt, but Oakland wide — where parks would potentially be closed for lack of staff.
A support letter signed by 220 lake walkers in favor of restoring and improving parks funding was delivered by RNCF to council. They had tabled the last two weekends for this effort.
We believe that access to parks is good for the well being of all Oakland residents and visitors… and that without solid maintenance our investments in parks would be at severe risk, even those that are said to be jewels of Oakland.
We firmly believe that volunteers and the community at large play a role in maintaining our parks through things like Weed Warriors and Adopt a Spot and our own organization, but that this is not enough. We need the involvement and work of our excellent city employees, those of DPW and OPRY&D. We need them for a commitment to sustain our parks. The finance office indicated they are particularly concerned about Park’s funding.
Please write the mayor and your city council member and encourage that these positions not be cut and to work for sustainable parks.
5 proposals were presented and discussed at the June 2nd meeting at the Lake Merritt Garden Center.
Barcode the Lake – Damon Tighe of California Center for Natural History
Birds Are Natural Ambassadors for Nature, Science, Art, & Community – Cindy Margulis of Golden Gate Audubon
Knowing Nature Thru Art – Jennifer Jastrab of Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants
Lake Merritt Observatory – Katie Noonan of Lake Merritt Institute (among other things!)
Exploring Urban Park Biodiversity – Donald Cooper (Eddie Dunbar presented at the meeting) of Insect Sciences Museum of California
The Core group is having follow up meetings with these groups & individuals to see what the next steps are. Karis Griffin indicated the Center would open sometime this summer, though no firm date was presented.
It was a little disappointing that we did not have the opportunity to present our own proposal due to a missed email.
At the southern point of the lake, where the tide flows in and out, there is a pedestrian bridge. This is perhaps my favorite place on the lake.
The bridge is quite new—part of the 2002 Measure DD work—finished in 2012 after a century old culvert was ripped out and the water allowed to flow free. The water underneath connects the lake to the bay, the bay to the hills. The bridge connects people from East Oakland to the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, downtown and beyond.
The other night my wife and I were biking over, and stopped as usual to take in the view. Already there were a few people gathered, including an elderly couple and a young bicycle messenger. I pulled up to the latter and asked, “Striped bass?” (That was the big fish I’ve most commonly seen there.) “No!” he said. “Sturgeon, I think. Seven of them or so.” And there they were lurking, gliding in and out of deeper water. I’d never seen them before. We chatted a while, exchanging observations and information, waiting for another glimpse.
That’s what I love about this spot—that it has its aficionados. We stop and chat, comparing notes. “What do you see?” It might be a school of silversides, a bat ray flying through the water, a lumbering sea hare, or a diving grebe. Birds fly underneath the bridge. Swallows nest nearby. Brown pelicans circle, gulls dive for shells, a gulp of cormorants glides across the lake. A gondola passes. Sometimes there is nothing, the water opaque, the tide calm. But still there are the hills and the Town reflected in the lake—and fellow Oaklanders watching with you.
— Adrian Cotter