September 30, 2007

Finding Temescal Creek

The UC Botanical Garden plant sale had been noted in my calendar since the summer. We set out this morning to purchase local natives for three spots in our garden. I had no particular species in mind, just plants that would thrive in three conditions: below a roof spout with late afternoon sun; below a roof spout with intense afternoon sun; and below a thin-crowned shrub with afternoon sun. The outing was a miss for several reasons. One, the nearby parking lots were full (perhaps I should have biked but I don't have a carrier yet and my knees are quite sore from race training). Two, we realized that we did not bring enough cash. Three, the crowd was off putting. We did not want to be jostled by red wagon carrying buyers and other eager plant enthusiasts. I thought it might be too difficult to browse leisurely on such a fine day. Instead, we drove along Grizzly Peak, stopping to admire downtown Oakland and San Francisco from a scenic viewing area. After that we drove to the Whole Foods Oakland. It was the first visit for one of us. On the way to Whole Foods, we drove by the Temescal Farmers' Market held in the DMV parking lot (a clever use of the space). We decided to stop on our way back from grocery shopping. This was an almost miss. By the time we returned, most of the vendors were putting away their wares and equipment. We bought two ready to eat peaches (the peaches at my favorite grocery store are cold and hard) from a vendor who was slow to pack up. They were delicious in a salad of organic Gala apples, persimmon, and goat gouda cheese. The best thing about going to the Temescal market was finding the Temescal Creek Greenway! I had no idea a creek was in this location; I have been to the DMV on Claremont, but did not notice any signs pointing to the creek or greenway. Anyway, we followed the creek from Clifton to Clarke Streets. Temescal Creek was adopted by the DMV Neighbors Association through the Adopt-a-Creek program sponsored by the Public Works Agency in Oakland. The greenway improvements, of which the creek is a part, are funded by the 2000 Parks Bond Act. Friends of Temescal Creek is a separate group that works with stakeholders in the creek's watershed to provide "a recreational and wildlife corridor from the hills to the bay," including Oakland and Emeryville as well as "a guided urban trail along the Temescal Creek corridor, with pieces of the natural riparian landscape being added to the whole as the community support develops, and as financial opportunities arise" (FoTC website). The creek and greenway are a lovely surprise in the landscape of the DMV, abandoned supermarket, Grove Shafter Freeway/24 off and on ramps, and the Claremont and Telegraph intersection. The creek course held lots of interest with pools and riffles. I observed several children playing in the water and small and large groups congregating at the edge and on benches located along the greenway. Towards Clarke Street, a DMV parking lot is well planted with a variety of large shade trees (future subject of a Tree Walk Wednesday). Public access to the creek also ends at Clarke as the creek winds its way behind backyards in the neighborhood.

September 29, 2007

Photo of the week: Whole Foods Oakland

A grocery store search on Yahoo for the Grand Lake neighborhood of Oakland, in which the new Whole Foods is located, yields three other stores: 7-Eleven, Grocery Outlet, and K&S Store. The Yahoo Maps tool does not capture all grocery stores in the neighborhood. For example, there is a corner market on Grand and Perkins, specializing in Ethiopian food stuff. Furthermore, the definition of grocery store is unclear if a convenience store like the 7-Eleven is included in the map. Anyway, the point is that Whole Foods Oakland has filled the need for a large grocery store in the Grand Lake neighborhood, and in Oakland generally. 27th and Harrison "Market hall" interior design right, Road to upper-level parking is behind the grey and yellow walls Cafe style seating (also located in the store); 10 bicycle racks; recycling center; narrow shopping carts Neighbours

September 26, 2007

Tree Walk Wednesday: Observations of tree conditions

This blog and its parent website began as an online urban tree reference in 2002. Although the focus is no longer exclusively on trees, I began to look closely at the health of trees on my daily routes after reading about the tree canopy goals of cities like Boston (100,000 trees by 2020) and New York (1 million trees by 2017). Why? Well, the significant factor in achieving canopy goals might seem to be the number of trees planted in the time period alloted, but planting trees with proper form and applying appropriate cultural and care practices to these trees will help to sustain a healthy urban canopy. With this in mind, here are several sets of photographs to consider. New Trees left, Sparse leaf cover versus right, Fairly good leaf cover Both trees are located on the same block on a major street in Oakland. The trees are the same species, purpleleaf plum (Prunus cerasifera). I could not determine if the tree on the left was planted in its present condition or if a lack of water or some other stress created the current state. The tree on the left was planted care of a councilperson while the tree on the right was planted by a local tree nonprofit. Pruning Le Conte neighborhood, Berkeley Trees on private property are part of a city's urban forest. A tree of this diameter (I did not pass over the property so I could not measure the dbh, or diameter at breast height), and crown width makes a significant contribution to air quality and temperature moderation at the neighborhood scale. What about stormwater attenuation? The large crown of this tree probably does capture stormwater (i.e., rain), but much of the root zone is covered with impervious surface so water that falls through the canopy and down the trunk is directed into the street and eventually the storm drain. However, at least a portion of its root zone is unpaved, unlike the situation for two sycamores (Platanus) on Grand Avenue (below). The reason I photographed the live oak was to point out the proper way to prune. According to the ISA Arborists' Certification Study Guide, "in landscape situations, tree pruning is often desirable or necessary to remove dead branches, improve tree structure, enhance vigor, or maintain safety." It seems like a large branch (above right) was removed in order to access a driveway. This pruning cut was done incorrectly and it is becomes quite clear when you compare it to another cut on the same tree (above center). One of the cardinal rules of tree pruning is to maintain the integrity of the branch collar which contains the "branch protection zone [that] allows for compartmentalization" of pruning cuts (ISA guide). Trees do not heal. The cut shown in the above center photograph maintained the branch collar with a cut above the branch bark ridge (the diagonal ridge in the center of the photograph). Another fault with the cut shown in the above right photograph is the size. Smaller cuts compartmentalize faster than larger cuts (ISA guide). Removal Grand Avenue, Oakland The crowns of some of the honey locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos) in the allee (above left) are thin, but the space provides a human scale element on a downtown block of parking lots, parking garages, and high-rise buildings. I was happy to see that there is an option for public input in the tree removal process. Why are the trees being removed? This critical piece of information is not included on the notice. I wonder if anyone has or will contest the removals. Staking If a tree is planted properly it does not require staking. Also, swaying promotes wood growth. I understand that staking is often used as a vandal-proof measure but I have observed many stakes standing guard over broken or missing trees. Whoever installed these stakes has forgotten them. I have featured Oakland trees in this post because it is where I have been spending my days lately. Lest you think only poor tree conditions are found in Oakland, here are photographs of a very nice grove of planetrees (Platanus) on Webster and 21st.

September 22, 2007

Contested streets

"Contested Streets" is the title of a documentary about the successful limiting of auto use is Paris, Copenhagen, and London and the strategies that can be implemented in New York City. There is a Toronto screening in October, you can watch a preview on You Tube, but I have not heard of a local screening. Today is International Car Free Day. I don't think many Cal Bears fans celebrated this occasion given the numerous cars on the street whose drivers were heading to the stadium and searching for parking. We drove to the grocery store today after an 8-mile run so I voted "Yes I have to do it today" in Spacing Toronto's Do you plan to drive on Car Free Day? poll. If you drove today maybe you pre-absolved yourself by participating in one of Friday's international Park(ing) Day celebrations. (The parking space to public park project is sponsored nationally by the Trust for Public Land and now has its own website.) Although Park(ing) Day sets out to highlight the need and desire for more park space in cities, it chooses to do so in a parking space, effectively contesting the predominance of auto uses on public land. (See my comparative map of roads and parking lots to non-auto open space in Castro Valley, CA.) Missed the celebration? Eran Ben-Joseph, MIT Professor and UC Berkeley graduate, will give a lecture titled "Park(ing)" on November 5 in the UCB Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. If you did not celebrate International Car Free Day or Park(ing) Day, if have not seen "Contested Streets" and will not attend Ben-Joseph's lecture, then maybe you can transform a parking lot into a "Greener P" (if you own one or your friend owns one) or you can lobby your city to do so.* Greener P is a green parking lot concept developed by Plant for the City of Toronto's 150 surface lots. The lot would feature solar lighting, green furniture, alternative vehicle parking, permeable paving, shade trees, green walls, and a rain garden. This is a permanent solution unlike Park(ing) Day's one day a year approach. Although the lot is "greener" it is not park space, but I have not heard about the permanent transformation of parking spaces to parks as a result of park(ing) celebrations. Granted, it is only the third year of the project. I think both concepts are needed. Maybe a Greener P would have room for fewer cars and if all surface lots became Greener P's Ps there would be less room to park cars and thus fewer cars being driven, at least in areas with Greener Ps. Also, maybe Greener Ps could give preference to bicycles and other non-petroleum modes of transportation. Sustainable change and strategies can emerge from a plethora and diversity of design and planning concepts. A vehicle-free society is utopian, but we can strive to limit vehicle use and to promote bus and rail public transportation (note: highways are publicly funded) and non-vehicular options. I read recently that "someone is not a person" so I say that somewhere is not a place. We need to start where we live (i.e., places) and Berkeley has a reputation for leading environmental reform (think daylighted creeks and traffic diverters). * [via Garden Rant]

September 19, 2007

Tree Walk Wednesday: Self-guided tree walks

On Wednesdays I will post about trees in the landscape - on a block, in a park, on a campus, or in a garden or yard. Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Canopy Tree Walk No. 8, Old Palo Alto: trees along this walk include Nyssa sylvatica (Tupelo), Fagus sylvatica 'Atropunicea' (Copper beech), and Quercus suber (Cork oak). The Palo Alto urban forestry nonprofit, Canopy, has completed 13 tree walk guides. Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco does not offer self-guided tree walk information, but the organization does host tree walks (view the calendar). Two tree walks in Mountain View are available on the Mountain View Trees website. The Sacramento Tree Foundation has added a new tree tour - Gibson Park - to its neighborhood tree tours portfolio. UC Berkeley Campus Trees: not a formal tree walk, but you can click on individual photographs to learn the location of selected trees on campus, like the old buckeye on Faculty Glade. UC Santa Barbara offers two tree tours: an exotic flora tour and a lagoon habitats tour. If you visit Portland, Oregon, tour the trees at Reed College. Another campus tree walk is at the Vermont Law School. Fall is always a good season to visit Vermont - check out the 2007 foliage report.

September 14, 2007

Nearby nature of rock outcroppings

Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, environmental psychologists at the University of Michigan, coined the term "nearby nature." Its definition is straightforward: nature in the form of natural elements and/or processes near to home (or work or play). The Kaplans have found that nearby nature promotes human well-being. Although the authors have focused on vegetative nature, they do not exclude inert elements like rocks. I have never been to the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, but I imagine the sight of El Capitan in Yosemite is psychologically restorative. Of the three outcrops, the one in Northbrae is the only one that has occurred spontaneously on site, but presumably the cognitive benefits from all three are similar (which is not to say that one should remove naturally occurring rocks from the landscape knowing we can design them in place). It is unlikely that everyone will have yards of spontaneous outcroppings, so we could take a lesson from the Le Conte resident and Michael Van Valkenburgh, landscape architect for Teardrop Park, and add rock formations to our nearby landscapes. In addition to humans, rocks also provide benefits for other species. Garden snakes use rock piles as shelter and turtles bask on rocks (Johnson et al., Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden). The gardeners at Peralta Garden in Westbrae have installed a "rock wall" for frogs that inhabit the garden's pond (top). left, Northbrae neighborhood, Berkeley; center, Le Conte neighborhood, Berkeley; right, Teardrop Park, Battery Park City, NYC, Image credit

Calendar: Berkeley Parks Centennial

Celebrate 100 years of Berkeley's parks this fall. The calendar in this post was provided by Berkeley Partners for Parks. For more details about each event, visit the BPFP news blog. September 16 Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Musical Block Party at Peralta Community Garden – hosted by the Friends of Westbrae Commons. Meet at 1400 Peralta Avenue, by the corner of Hopkins. September 23 Sunday, 12 to 3 p.m. East Bay Labyrinth Project – Walk the future labyrinth at the Marina. East Lawn just south of University Avenue past the Marina Blvd. September 23 Sunday, 3 to 5 p.m. Berkeley Partners for Parks Fundraiser in Aquatic Park. At the EGRET Center/clubhouse, on Bolivar Drive just north of Ashby. September 30 Sunday, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Halcyon Commons - Community Potluck with Live Music. Halcyon Court at Prince St. October 13 Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon School House Creek Commons-Fall Clean Up and Sowing of Wild Flower Seeds. At Virginia and Curtis Streets-Eastern end of the Berkeley Adult School. November 3 Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon Lower Codornices Creek: From Rails to Restoration. Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Historical Society and Led by Susan Schwartz with Drew Goetting & Richard Register. November 17 Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon Berkeley’s Downtown Parks: Real, Envisioned, and Vanished. Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Historical Society and led by Steve Finacom & Linda Perry.

September 13, 2007

No Berkeley parks on John King's list of "Great City Parks"

The cover photo of this month's AAA magazine,Via, is of the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and the park is one of "great city parks" listed by John Kin, urban design critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. The list also includes Forest Park (Portland, Or), Balboa Park (San Diego), Bidwell Park (Chico, Ca), Stanley Park (Vancouver), Truckee River Whitewater Park (Reno), and Library Square (Salt Lake City). His secondary list of parks includes Crissy Field (San Francisco), Tanner Springs Park (also in Portland, Oregon and one of my favorite neighborhood parks), Freeway Park (Seattle), Confluence Park (Denver), Charlie Kellogg and Joe Zahar Sports Complex (Las Vegas), and Steele Indian School Park (Phoenix). Why is a sports complex listed as a great city park? Okay, it is 110 acres, but very few of its amenities - 11 soccer fields, 3 dog runs, covered picnic areas, 2 playgrounds, 2.44 mile track, and 22 tennis courts - evoke "great park." Certainly Berkeley has great parks too. Or perhaps, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose (the third largest city in California) are not great cities. Ira Keller Civic Forecourt Fountain, Portland Designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin Here are my nominees for great (western) city parks with the caveat that I have not been to every western city and have not seen all the parks in the cities I have visited.
  • Guadalupe River Park and Gardens (San Jose)
  • Ira's Fountain (Portland)
  • Lake Merritt (Oakland)
  • Aquatic Park (Berkeley)
  • Berkeley Rose Garden
The Berkeley Rose Garden was the last stop on the Natural Parks walk led by Berkeley Path Wanderers member, Susan Schwartz. We used the paths restored and maintained by BPWA to visit each of the parks on the tour. There were approximately 37 people including Ms. Schwartz at the beginning of the walk, but by the time we reached Grotto Rock, several people had departed due to the vigorous pace set by Ms. Schwartz. Back to the Rose Garden. I missed Susan's depiction of the park, but you can learn more about the rose garden on the Berkeley Parks website. Cordonices Creek flows through the rose garden, hence it's inclusion in the natural parks tour. Going in reverse order, the previous point was Remillard Park. The main feature of this park is Pinnacle Rock, the highest climbing rock in Berkeley according to Ms. Schwartz. The Remillards held a "brick monopoly prior to the 1890s depression" and the land on which the 5.9-acre park sits belonged to Remillard's daughter who gifted the land to the city when she could not pay her taxes. The park was officially designated in 1963. Ms. Schwartz noted that the creation of this park was not a result of park activism in the 1960s. Our sixth stop was Cragmont Rock Park which we reached by taking Easter Way Path, so named because it was used for morning Easter processions. There are spectacular views of downtown Oakland and San Francisco. Prior to Cragmont Rock, we caught our breath at Grotto Rock. Ms. Schwartz noted that ivy and acacia removal as well as drought tolerant and native plantings were ongoing site projects. As we took in the view, two deer crossed the street above our group. The fourth park on our walk, John Hinkle Park, has two creeks running through it: Cerrito and Blackberry creeks. The park was developed during the first world war. The land was gifted to the city by John Hinkle in 1918 and his hunting lodge is still standing though in extremely poor condition. According to Ms. Schwartz, the city does not have money to make repairs to the structure and so wait for "it to fall down." John Hinkle Park ampitheatre Mortar Rock Park and Indian Rock Park were points 3 and 2 respectively. Mortar Rock has interesting remnants of Native American use in the form of "mortar and pestle" holes in the rocks (below left). Indian Rock Park was a developer set-aside during the development of the Northbrae neighborhood. The park was officially designated in 1917. Ms. Schwartz highlighted the importance of the Indian Rock in climbing history, specifically "Dick Leonard, the 'father of modern rock climbing,' and noted environmentalist David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, learned rock climbing and developed their mountaineering techniques at Indian Rock" (Berkeley Parks website). Like Cragmont Rock, there are great bay views from Indian Rock. The first stop on the walk was Live Oak Park whose significant natural features include live oak and Cordonices Creek. Live Oak was "voted as a nature park," said Ms. Schwartz. Prior to the development of the park, the site was open fields that separated the downtown from a "wealthy enclave" of doctors, seamen, &c. Ms. Schwartz also pointed out the significant cultural features of the park - the stonework, the fireplaces, and the rock court - which were installed during the WWI years or she phrased it, the "last of the optimistic City Beautiful years." Other photographs along the way

September 11, 2007

Pollinators: on your stamps, in your yard

I have Forever stamps and Pacific Lighthouses 41-cent stamps. The last stamps I purchased with a nature theme were the Common Buckeye and Florida Panther postcard stamps and the Crops of America 41-cent stamp. These stamps are what I call portrait stamps. One new portrait stamp set, called Beautiful Blooms, features flowers like the chrysanthemum, tulip, and iris. The latest relational stamp set is titled Pollination. According to the USPS website, Steven Buchman, the stamp's artist, "created an intricate graphic scheme for the stamps that emphasizes the ecological relationship between pollinators and plants and also hints at the biodiversity necessary to ensure the future viability of that relationship." I recently used my local post office to mail a gift but did not purchase the Pollination stamps so the photo (below) is from the USPS website. The pollinators featured are the bat, hummingbird, honeybee, and butterfly. (Species information is not included.) Other relational sets include the 39-cent Southern Florida Wetland and the 41-cent Nature of America: Alpine Tundra. Image credit The Pollination stamps were released on June 29 during National Pollinator Week 2007. The celebration was organized by the Pollinator Partnership, an organization whose mission is "to encourage the health of resident and migratory pollinating animals in North America." Here, in the East Bay, there are several intentional pollinator habitats: the Urban Bee Garden on the UC Berkeley Oxford Tract, the Le Conte School Butterfly Garden and the Le Conte Butterfly Habitat in the Ellsworth/Russell traffic circle, the Alameda Habitat Butterfly Garden, and the bird and butterfly Nectar Garden at Coyote Hills Regional Park. I did not locate another bird garden and did not find a bat garden. Butterfly drinking, trail along Nine Mile Run, Pittsburgh, PA You don't require a large space to create habitat, especially for small, mobile species. As Johnson et al. note in Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden, "creating a wildlife habitat garden depends upon the provision of food, shelter, water, and a safe place for wildlife to rear their young. This applies from balconies to larger properties" (my emphasis). Here are some resources for creating plant-pollinator habitat: bats Johnson et al. recommend The Bat House Builder's Handbook by Bat Conservation International. You can also find bat house information on the conservation group's website. bees Creating a Great Bee Garden; also Flowering Season vs. Bee Season (UC Berkeley Urban Bee Garden) birds Helping Birds at Home (Point Reyes Bird Observatory/ PBRO Conservation Science) butterflies Bay Area Butterflies (No. American Butterfly Assn) I am developing a conceptual design called an "edible pocket woodland" specific to the East Bay - edible for humans (mostly fruit, nuts, and perennial herbs) and small, mobile species like bees, birds, and butterflies. The concept is based on three models: the edible forest garden, the pocket woods (see Noah's Garden by Sara Stein), and the urban pocket park. Related post Designed with ecological intent

September 10, 2007

Specialty bookshops

A while ago I shared photographs of the shuttered Barnes & Noble on Shattuck Avenue. I was surprised at its closure. It is usually the independent book shop that closes its doors, like Cody's on Telegraph. Luckily, Berkeley has an enviable population of independent booksellers: Pegasus on Shattuck (across from the old Barnes & Noble), Shakespeare on Telegraph at Dwight, Black Oak on Shattuck in North Berkeley, among others. I used to be a frequent buyer at the independent shops in my neighborhood, but recently I am have been borrowing from the main branch of the Berkeley Public Library. In particular, I like to borrow habitat and wildlife books, and most recently gardening mysteries! I enjoy mysteries and detective fiction. Berkeley does not, to my knowledge, have a mystery specialty book shop. The Ecology Center carries gardening books and Mrs. Dalloway's in Elmwood also has a selection of garden references and literature. But the best specialty gardening book shop I have visited is Powell's Books for Homes and Garden in Portland's Hawthorne District. I purchased a copy of Noah's Garden from the book store in July. I am developing an online bookshop through Amazon called The Printed Leaf. If you have book recommendations, please leave the title(s) in a comment. In addition to afore-mentioned specialty booksellers, Berkeley is home to a science fiction and fantasy book store - Dark Carnival - located on Claremont Avenue between The Uplands and the Claremont Reservoir. Dark Carnival celebrated its 30th anniversary on August 25. The book store provides recommendations on its website. Another eclectic specialty book store is Revolution Books located in the privately-owned alleyway between Channing and Durant. (A BPL book store is also located in the alleyway.) I've only visited the store once during which time I was encouraged to purchase the Revolution newspaper and a video (possibly about Bob Avakian). The Niebyl-Proctor Library, a research library located in Oakland, carries Marxist-oriented books. Berkeley also has spiritually-oriented bookshops. The new Buddhist Churches of America, the Jodo Shinshu Center on Durant, has a book store. On Telegraph Avenue near Prince, Sunrise Bookshop carries books on eastern and western religious and spiritual traditions. They also carry music, videos, incense and Buddha statues. If you are interested in Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander cultures, Eastwind Books of Berkeley offers fiction (like Deadly Slipper: Death In The Dordogne, a botanical mystery featuring a rare orchid), children's literature, cookbooks, language arts, and nonfiction, among other categories. I purchased a Mandarin-English dictionary with gracious assistance from a staff member. Finally, you can visit the Nolo Press Outlet Bookstore in West Berkeley at 950 Parker Street, on your next walking tour of West Berkeley (review the walk in the 41 Walking Tours of Berkeley, California, by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association). Nolo Press publishes legal books and other materials. You can learn about West Berkeley landmarks - 950 Parker Street is not a landmark - on the BAHA website. I forgot to mention the Builders Booksource on 4th Street carrying books and other publications for contractors, designers, and "do-it-yourselfers." My first visit to the store was in April when I attended Randy Hester's book talk for Designing for Ecological Democracy. Builders Booksource also carries Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden (my copy is from the library) and EBMUD's Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region. Additional content added on September 11, 2007.

September 8, 2007

Bay Area environmental issues explored on KQED Quest

I learned about the QUEST program from a Le Conte resident who was featured for his work on the historical ecology of wetlands. Since then I have watched several shows (see below), on television and on the web. The "Perilous Deisel" program though brief provides rich content. The goods that are shipped to the port have highly damaging consequences. West Oakland has five times more deisel particles than other Oakland neighborhoods. Deisel was responsible for 24,000 premature deaths statewide, but in 2006, a law mandated the use of low-sulphur diesel which is 97% cleaner than traditional diesel. So far, only 70 of 2500 trucks have received replacement converters. In an effort to force the truckers to use the highway system and to keep off residential streets, the City of Oakland has developed new truck routes. However, truckers still use residential streets to access services like food, parking (breaks), and repair services. Currently, there is only one service facility at the port, but a proposed facility on the decommissioned army base will provide much needed services. Another interesting fact is that ships are more polluting than trucks, but they are regulated by international laws. However, there is a new proposal to regulate ships within 25 miles of Oakland shoreline. Finally, a West Oakland resident has been nominated to the Port Commission. Margaret Gordon is the co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and told QUEST that "it is good business for the Port to be socially responsible." West Oakland is not the only community that is dealing with pollution. In a recent NY Times Magazine article, Amanda Griscom Little writes that "disproportionately high pollution levels continue to plague poor communities, and race often correlates with which populations are hit the hardest: African-Americans...are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in areas where air-pollution levels pose health risks....Lead poisoning rates among Hispanic and black children are roughly double those among white children." Little interviewed MacArthur Fellow, Majora Carter, who founded Sustainable South Bronx, an environmental justice organization that fights the siting of expanded or new "dirty" industries in the South Bronx as well as promotes green industries. Urban Habitat, an environmental, economic, and social justice nonprofit in Oakland, is also exploring the idea of "green economics." The Ella Baker Center in Oakland is also supporting green economics; the organization is a proponent of the Green Jobs Act of 2007. Content added on September, 10, 2007.

September 6, 2007

Event: Rocks, parks, and residential neighborhoods of North Berkeley

The Berkeley Partners for Parks and the City of Berkeley is celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Berkeley's parks. The first event, in honor of Berkeley's first park, San Pablo Park, was held on August 25. Details for the next event are presented below (event description provided by Berkeley Partners for Parks). ...................................................................... September 8, Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon Rocks, Parks and Residential Neighborhoods of North Berkeley Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Historical Society and Led by local historian, and author Susan Cerny. Visit Indian Rock Park, Mortar Park, and Grotto Park in Northbrae and John Hinkel Park, all treasures of Berkeley's public open space. They contain native oaks, winding footpaths, and large stone outcroppings. Surrounding the parks are early 20th century residential neighborhoods with picturesque homes. Contact: Reserve a space by calling (510) 848-0181, between 1 pm and 4 pm on Thursday or Friday before the tour; or go to the city's events website. ...................................................................... On August 18 I walked with the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association on a tour of natural parks (subject of a future post) led by Susan Schwartz. On this walk, I saw many rock outcrops including one in someone's front yard (see below); this, other front yard rocks, and rock outcrops in Berkeley are featured in Berkeley Rocks by Jonathan Chester. The Landscape Architecture Magazine describes Chester's book as "fascinating." I was surely awed by these local geological features. Parks news items

September 5, 2007

Tree Walk Wednesday

I hope to make this theme - "Tree Walk Wednesday" - a regular post. I was inspired by Take a Tree Walk by Jane Kirkland and Tree Tuesday at Spacing Wire. Jane Kirkland defines a tree walk as "an adventure" that might begin in your backyard, schoolyard, or park. The goal is to take a walk and observe the trees along the way. The book is designed for children and provides guidance on how to take field notes about the trees one sees. On the second page of the book, Jane provides an example of a tree walk adventure; she notices a large oak during a neighborhood bike ride. For my first tree walk, I did not have to go on a new adventure. I chose a tree I see quite often - a large walnut in the Le Conte neighborhood. The reason I chose the tree is twofold: (1) I am in interested in edible street trees and (2) my landlady told me that squirrels bury the nuts on our lot and during the spring they search for the buried nuts which explains the many messy holes and exposed feeder roots in our planting beds. The black walnut (genus: Juglans) produces an allelopathic compound called juglone which inhibits the growth of vegetation sensitive to the toxin. A list of insensitive and sensitive plant species is available through the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Other walnut species produce juglone, but to a lesser degree. A sparse bed of vegetation grows beneath the walnut tree I observed, but the planting area might have been "weeded" by the adjacent resident. I cannot positively identify the species of walnut I photographed, but I assume it is the Northern California black walnut. The leaves on this tree (the lowest branch is too high to reach and no leaves are on the ground) appear similar to those in my Pacific Tree Finder. Also, the species is a street tree in the Crescent Park neighborhood of Palo Alto. The UC Davis California Backyard Orchard project bulletin describe walnuts as "lovely shade trees." There are two varieties of the native California walnut (Juglans californica): the Northern California black walnut (J. californica hindsii) and the Southern California black walnut (J. californica var. californica). The UC Davis orchard project notes that the most popularly grown varieties are English. The walnut entry on Wikipedia notes that the Northern California black walnut is used as a rootstock for English varieties (J. regia). According to Stuart and Sawyer in Trees and Shrubs of California, species in the northern range are hybrids of California black walnut and eastern black walnut (J. nigra). If you can gather the walnuts before the squirrels do, you can prepare recipes published by the Hammon Company. For more botanical information on the Northern California black walnut and the English walnut visit the UC Davis orchard project website.

September 2, 2007

Birdspotting on 10th Street, Oakland

Sept. 5, 2007: The herons were not observed in Lake Merritt Channel Park. If you would like to know the location of the heron roost please send an email. The germ of this post was my "discovery" of the Lake Merritt Channel Park on 10th Street in Oakland. I was excited by the sculpture and the walkers along the path in the western section of the park (10th Street bisects the park). Other users of the western half of the park included Tai Chi and yoga practitioners as well as dancers on the Laney College courtyard abutting the park (dancer and Tai Chi practitioners also use the courtyard of the BART Administration building above the Lake Merritt Station). I was not thrilled to encounter extroverted (aggressive) Canada geese. In the eastern half of the park I observed homeless men emerging from the vegetation lining the channel. This section was also used by readers and sun bathers (there is a large lawn). I also observed Canada geese. Both sides of the channel support bird life - herons, egrets, gulls, ducks, pelicans, and cormorants - but I observed more species in the the western half. At low tide, more mud (feeding area) is exposed in the western half of the park. The Lake Merritt Channel Park connects Lake Merritt to the Estuary Park and the Oakland Inner Harbor and eventually to the bay. The Channel Park is separated from Lake Merritt by the 14th Street Interchange and the Nimitz Freeway is located at its southern edge. As I mentioned earlier, the park is bisected by 10th Street. Despite the prevalence of automobile infrastructure when I was in either side of the park, I did not notice the surrounding transportation corridors. In part, the bowl shape of both sides of the park, in particular the western side, dampened traffic sounds, and my engagement with the lives within the park made me less aware of traffic distractions. (There is interesting architecture in the area: the Oakland Unified School District administration building, the Kaiser Convention Center, and the Oakland Museum.) Back to the bird life. On the way to the park for a second time, around 8 a.m., I saw a black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) on a concrete ledge. I've seen this heron before, through binoculars. I was unbelievably excited to see it clearly with my naked eye (passers-by thought me curious). I watched the heron hoping it would "fish" from a nearby large, goldfish-stocked man-made pond. I did not see it fish that morning or on subsequent days of observation. (According to Martin et al. in American Wildlife & Plants, the black-crowned night heron "occasionally makes damaging raids on fish hatcheries.") I also observed what I think was the same heron later in the at 4 p.m. that day. On the third day, I saw a heron (the same one from the previous day?) and two others on the concrete ledge. I also observed that the grove of trees adjacent to the ledge and pond was filled with herons; a roost in a stand of Monterey cypress (pine?), redwood, and live oak! The main heron was also present on the ledge at 4 p.m. Stand of Monterey cypress, redwood, and live oak I was looking forward to seeing the herons on the morning of my fourth day in the area, but I was disappointed. There were no signs of the herons. I was cheered when I walked by the eastern section of Channel Park to see a common (or American) egret (Casmerodius albus)feeding in the narrow mud bank. It was perhaps this same egret that I noticed on previous days. In the afternoon, the egret was perched in a Monterey cypress above the channel. The nest of the common egret is "a platform of sticks in large trees, dead brush over water, or in tule marsh" (RT Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds). I learned from Mark Liolios (of Aquatic Park EGRET) that egrets like to perch on the dead branches of Monterey cypress. The egret is the bright white shape in the photograph. I walked by the heron roost on my way out of the 10th Street area and observed a heron (I do think it was the heron I first saw in this area) and a second bird, possibly a juvenile, in one of the grove's redwoods. This last observation highlights the real presence of nature in a city. I made this observation standing across the street, at a bus shelter, from the grove. A very short heron video (click on the image to view)

September 1, 2007

Food etceteras

I came across these photos (see below) I took in July at the Peralta Community Garden. I got a Jargonelle pear and an Andean cape gooseberry (also known as ground cherry) from Paul, an Eco-House resident, Karl Linn garden gardener, and a Dig Coop member. It's quite curious that once you are aware of a thing you begin to see examples of that thing everywhere. So it has been with edible front yards. On my runs throughout Berkeley (I am training for a half marathon), I've come across more edible estates (or edible front yards): a side yard at Milvia at Parker, Stuart between Telegraph and Ellsworth, 2208 and 2310 Roosevelt (the latter is the yard of an apartment building), and a yard on southeast Grant at Dwight. Stuart Street edible estate Thanks to Jen's comment on a previous post about edible estates front yards which led me to All Edibles, an edible landscaping company based in Berkeley and co-founded by Kirk Saunders and Sara Weihmann. You can learn more about Kirk and Sara's process and view works in progress on the company website. The process includes the removal of lawn; the lawn has been the site of contention nationwide and the subject of garden bloggers on Garden Rant. Related posts Collecting seeds at the Peralta Community Garden Spilling the beans Tomatoes in my garden