Berkeley Peace Lantern Ceremony, photo by Joe Reifer
I was just marking my calendar for the Berkeley Peace Lantern Ceremony, which is held in early August to commemorate the Hiroshima atomic bombing. Attendees of the event make paper lanterns, which are sent afloat at the Berkeley Aquatic Park. There are also music and speeches, and in the past I have enjoyed attending this event. I realized as I noted the event that I had not written yet about the Aquatic Park. If you’re not familiar with Berkeley, the Aquatic Park is located in southwest Berkeley on the east side of I-80. At the north end of the Aquatic Park is the bicycle bridge, connecting to the Berkeley Marina. The Parks dept. map shows it pretty well (blue at bottom left).
Because I am including paths in my walk, I have walked around the Aquatic Park on the walk/bike path. The east side is nice (but watch out for flying objects — there’s a disc golf course along this side), but the west side was not as pleasant; you are walking right next to the freeway wall with the sounds and smells of cars and trucks whizzing by. This side is really best travelled by bicycle in my opinion. On the water itself, I have seen rowing and canoeing. There is a water ski ramp, but I have not actually seen anyone using it yet. The Aquatic Park was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project build in the 1930s; its existence was apparently threatened in 1963 when developers wanted to fill it in and make it into a business park.
Although I like the Aquatic Park and its amenities, it seems in need of some upgrades — particularly those that would make it a bit safer. Although the park is pleasant and filled with people (joggers, dog walkers, picnickers, children, etc.) on weekends and after work, I’m not inclined to walk by myself along this path at non-busy times — especially because there seem to be shrubbery and other places where people could lurk, and I have also noted people just sitting and waiting in their cars at the south end of the park. Berkeley has big plans in place for streetscape improvements along the route from the Fourth Street shopping area and the Amtrak station to the Aquatic Park and bicycle bridge. It looks the improvements will mostly occur around the north area of the park near the bridge, but perhaps this will increase the amount of foot traffic and safety in the area a bit.