Written July 30, 2007 by georgia
Snapshots of Boston (and Cambridge)

left: City Hall, designed by I.M. Pei
right: Farmers' market on City Hall Plaza (read about Massachusetts Farmers' Markets)

right: Zakim Bridge

Haymarket (read about the outdoor market)


left: South Station (read about the history of this transportation center)
right: downtown skyline

State mental health building

Cambridge, MA
left: brick sidewalk
right: classic triple deckers

Cambridge, MA
left: a flatiron building, one of my favorite architectural styles
right: brick church near Central Square

Written July 29, 2007 by georgia
Greenway or park blocks?

The Central Artery has been removed from the Boston landscape. In its place are a series of park places known as the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The use of the term greenway to refer a landscape that once represented physical and social division and environmental degradation is brilliant. Greenway is evocative of Ebenezzer Howard's greenbelt idea: a verdant expanse of countryside surrounding garden cities and green towns (read about Greenbelt, Maryland). The Kennedy Greenway seems a natural fit in a period during which cities are reimaging themselves as green.

Waterfront parcels

However, during a recent trip to Boston I walked along the greenway and was surprised to see that the almost 30 acres of new parkland is not a greenway. I imagine a greenway as a connected series of green spaces. Several busy roadways reconnect downtown to the North End and the waterfront but interrupt the continuity of the greenway. I think it would be more appropriate for the new parkland to be named park blocks (at least the name would better match the physical reality). I can imagine the Kennedy Greenway years from now resembling the South and North Park Blocks in Portland, Oregon. The blocks differ in form and content: the North blocks feature active recreation facilities while the South blocks feature trees, lawns, and art installations.

My favorite of the Greenway parcels are the North End Parks designed by Wallace Floyd Design Group and Gustafson Partners. The layering of plant material is well executed. Also, the large size of the parcels gives an expansive quality to this section of the Greenway.

I am also intrigued by the Chinatown park. (I wrote a political ecological analysis of the 0.75-acre parcel.) The red pylons have been installed (early controversy: Changes to the final design include the removal of highly symbolic elements (the “lantern”, the pylons, and the “full fountain”) and reduction in park space due to the inclusion of safety infrastructure.) The park is incomplete so I cannot remark on the final design. I will have to visit Boston again, soon.

Written July 19, 2007 by georgia
Scenes from a Hackensack, NJ neighborhood

right: Hackensack River

Written July 13, 2007 by georgia
Music and design activate empty storefronts

In April and May, a concert series played in the empty Fidelity Bank building between Mechanics and Union Banks on Shattuck Avenue. Currently, the Green City Gallery, an exhibition of Bay Area ecological design developed by Bay Localize and Dig Coop, is being held in a former office supply store at the corner of Shattuck and Berkeley Way. The exhibition includes a model residential grey water treatment system (a full-scale version was installed at the EcoHouse by Dig Coop) and an algal carbon fixation experiment.

Algal carbon fixation video clip

Previous posts about storefronts

They closed?! Oh wow!
Filling the gap

Written July 11, 2007 by georgia
Egret: shorebird and stewards

Northern end of main lagoon

July 9 marked only my second visit to Aquatic Park. At 32.76 land acres and 67.7 water acres, the park is Berkeley's largest city-owned park. My first visit involved a cursory look at the "middle lagoon" through a car window. I had a more thorough tour of the middle lagoon on Tuesday, guided by Mark Liolios of Aquatic Park Environmental Greening, Restoration, and Education Team (Aquatic Park EGRET). As we walked the perimeter of the middle lagoon, Mark pointed out cultural and ecological features of the park as well as EGRET's current projects.

Western edge of main lagoon

The road that currently separates the main lagoon from the middle lagoon was once the site of boardwalk from which model sailboat racers would monitor their boats. (I do not know when the boardwalk was removed.) Prior to the development of the site as a park under the Works Progress Administration, the eastern edge of the park was the bay's shoreline. All three lagoons are connected to the bay via pipes and gates.

Vegetation along roadway separating the lagoons; middle lagoon on the right

EGRET was preceded by Friends of Aquatic Park. The friends-of group coalesced in 1963 to prevent a business park infill project. The group was also involved in the development of the bicycle/pedestrian bridge across I80 and the Dream Land for Kids playground.

Cypress overhanging middle lagoon (egrets perched on dead branches)

Seven years ago, the City of Berkeley received a state grant to plant native vegetation along both sides of the roadway separating the main and middle lagoons. (Laurel Marcus and Associates was the project consultant.) Post-project maintenance was rudimentary and EGRET began stewarding the site. The group was awarded two mini-grants which they used to vegetate the rotary and to install three benches, on the south side of the main lagoon and the north side of the middle lagoon. Other projects include planting shrubs to buffer feeding shorebirds from trail users and incidentally to provide songbird habitat. Recently, EGRET and a group of 4th graders planted replacement Monterey cypress, the preferred roost species of egrets and herons.

Terraces on the western edge of the middle lagoon

In addition to ecological restoration, EGRET is also involved in the park's cultural features. Four years ago, the group excavated the south terrace. There are terraces on all sides of the middle lagoon, historically used for bird watching and model sailing spectating. This year, EGRET and a group of 100 high school students celebrated Cesar Chavez Day by removing 4-foot weeds to reveal terraces on the western edge of the middle lagoon.

Weeding and mulching are part of the EGRET's restoration toolkit. The city provides large piles of mulch. Initially the City only provided enough material to mulch two to three inches. EGRET asked for more material; the group applies six inches of mulch. As this thick layer of mulch decomposes it release nutrients into the soil and it dramatically slows soil dessication.

While the park is a great place to watch birds, walk, bike, and play, there are some challenges. Drivers park within the root zone of trees; tree pruning is inappropriately implemented (I saw many snapped branches); the park lacks appropriate signage (the current welcome sign does not note the name of the park and there are few wayfinding signs to the park and within the park); the parkland behind the cabin is used as a storage facility; and the western trail is only separated from the highway by a chain-link fence.

The City is the potential recipient of $2 million (PROP 50) from the Coastal Conservancy for a Aquatic Park improvement plan. An environmental review under CEQA must be completed before the funding is released. The review is currently underway and is expected to be completed in 2008.

I learned that the the black-crowned night herons like to roost in the willows south of the middle lagoon, the egrets like the trees behind the cabin, and the snowy egrets like the western edge of the middle lagoon. I observed egrets wading and perched in the middle lagoon but it was only on my departure that I saw one stalking. (A tip from Mark Liolios: If you are close to an egret, do not stare directly at it. Instead, turn your back to it, then slowly look over your shoulder.)

- Tour with Mark Liolios
- Wikipedia entry
- See links within post

Written July 09, 2007 by georgia
Neighborhood sitting space

Ohlone Greenway in Cedar Rose Park

"People tend to sit most where there are places to sit" (William H. Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, 1980).

#19 AC Transit stop on 6th at Channing

Whyte was writing about seating options in public spaces, mostly privately owned plazas in New York City. The provision of seating areas in privately owned spaces like plazas, atria, and malls as well as seating in publicly owned spaces like parks is commonplace. What continues to pleasantly surprise me is the creation of seating, by neighborhood residents, for neighborhood residents. Here are several instances:

Eco-House, adjacent to sidewalk (a public-private example)

Prince at Fulton (also features a community bulletin board; read Jen's recent post on Walking Berkeley)

Zen center, Parker at Fulton

Russell Street, near College Avenue

Ward between Shattuck and Fulton

Walnut, east of Shattuck (my favourite)

A good place from which to watch the neighbors go by, Channing between 8th and 7th (the bench looks like a church pew; Grace Baptist Church is one block east)

If you would like to share a neighborhood sitting space, please write a comment or send an email.

Written July 07, 2007 by georgia
Climate crisis call to action

Today is the 24 hour worldwide Live Earth event, brainchild of Kevin Wall and Al Gore. The major celebrations are happening in global cities including New York, London, Jo'burg, Tokyo, and Sydney, but there are numerous local celebrations and you can plan your own.

I am not sure I can participate in any of today's events but I would like to share a video of Ira's Fountain in downtown Portland, Or, a lively display of water designed by Lawrence Halprin and based on spring flows in the Cascades. The Live Earth event is a climate crisis call to action and water is an essential natural actor.

The role of water is central to most natural processes....The global energy balance is influenced strongly by the high capacity of water for storing thermal energy and the large amount of heat required to change water from liquid to vapor and vice versa. The abundance of water in the atmosphere and oceans make it an important regulator of climate. Water vapor is the most important of the greenhouse gases. Life depends on water.

Source: Elements of Physical Hydrology, Hornberger et al.

Written July 06, 2007 by georgia
Frick Park acc. to Annie Dillard

Meadow project (formerly a lawn), Nine Mile Run Watershed Assn, Frick Park

As I have written before, I love books. Each post has a link to my (incomplete) library catalogue. I am still searching for a neighborhood and/or nature and books blog...what a great idea! Anyway, recently I spent time in Frick Park, Pittsburgh and was reminded of Annie Dillard's 1987 book, An American Childhood, in which she wrote about the park. Here's the excerpt:

Across the street from Walter Milligan's football field was Frick Park. Frick Park was 380 acres of woods in residential Pittsburgh. Only one trail crossed it; gravelly walk gave way to dirt and led down a forested ravine to a damp streambed. If you followed the streambed all day you would find yourself in a distant part of town reached ordinarily by a long streetcar ride. Near Frick Park's restful entrance, old men and women from other neighborhoods were lawn bowling on the bowling green. The rest of the park was wild woods....

I roamed Frick Park for many years. Our family moved from house to house, but we never moved so far I couldn't walk to Frick Park. I watched the men and women lawn bowling-so careful the players, so dull the game. After I got a bird book I found, in the deep woods, a downy woodpecker working a tree trunk; the woodpecker looked like a jackhammer man banging on Edgerton Avenue to bits. I saw sparrows, robins, cardinals, juncos, chipmunks, squirrels, and-always disappointingly, emerging from their magnificent ruckus in the leaves-pedigreed dachshunds, which a woman across the street bred....

The deepest ravine, over which loomed the Forbes Avenue bridge, was called Fern Hollow. There in winter I searched for panther tracks in the snow. In summer and fall I imagined the woods extending infinitely. I was the first human being to see these shadowed trees, this land; I would make my pioneer clearing here, near the water. Mine would be one of those famously steep farms....In spring I pried flat ricks from the damp streambed and captured red and black salamanders.... (42 - 44).

Annie Dillard's childhood house, Pittsburgh, PA





local ecology, 2005-2007

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