The Ohlone Park 50th Anniversary celebration was a resounding success. From Milvia to Sacramento along Hearst Avenue, hundreds of people enjoyed activities that shed light on the park’s 1969 founding and the area’s indigenous cultural roots, as well as offering a wide variety of summertime festivities.
At 11 a.m. a rededication of the Ohlone Mural took place. And at the west end of the park dozens of acoustic musicians played well past the official closing of the celebration at 4 pm.
Monica Arrellano, vice chair of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Council, opened the mural rededication with a prayer in Chochenyo, and nineteen tribal members sang a song in the original language of the East Bay. Mayor Jesse Arreguin spoke about Berkeley’s Native heritage and the importance of traditional ecological knowledge for the future. And artist Jean LaMarr told the audience that an art garden with indigenous plants will be created around the mural in the near future.
The afternoon events all occurred west of MLK Jr. Way. The Ohlone Dog Park Association hosted a dog trainer in the dog park. Near the small redwood grove at Grant St., a lively recounting of the ten-year-long effort to create a new park in Berkeley, originally the People’s Park Annex, took place at the History Pavilion. The Ohlone Community Garden held an open house.
Between the garden and McGee St., a Native California Indian Arts and Culture Festival, organized by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA), drew a large crowd all day long. And near California Street, clowns and other performers entertained kids while a free tune-up clinic from Aquatic Park’s Street Level Cycles serviced bikes. Several food trucks provided nutritious meals for the hungry throng.
This event was possible thanks to the Friends of Ohlone Park, FOOP’s fiscal agent Berkeley Partners for Parks, donors to our GoFundMe fundraiser, the California Institute for Community, Art and Nature, financial support from Berkeley’s City Council and Mayor Arreguin, the generous collaboration of the Berkeley Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, and the hard work of many volunteers.
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Rededication Ceremony at the Ohlone Mural
The History Pavilion
The History Pavilion at the 50th Anniversary hosted a dozen participants who related the origins of Ohlone Park as the People’s Park Annex in 1969. In late 1967 BART abandoned land after they demolished 200 homes and trenched the area to submerge the tube the trains. After the suppression of People’s Park, neighbors and allies from all over the area began creating a park on what was called The Hearst Strip. Their early efforts were trashed by police, but residents persisted and after a ten year effort the California Assembly passed Tom Bates’ law that provided the City of Berkeley the means to purchase the land from BART and create Ohlone Park in 1979. (Research assistance on the history of Ohlone Park was provided by the Berkeley Historical Society and the Berkeley Public Library History Room.)
The Ohlone Park Community Garden, like the Ohlone Dog Park, is maintained by a dedicated band of volunteers.
Native California Indian Arts and Culture Festival
The California Institute for Community, Art, and Nature joined the Alliance for California Traditional Arts in bringing to Ohlone Park on its 50th anniversary the best and most accomplished artists, basket weavers, jewelry makers, boat builders, storytellers, singers, and other traditional artists from many parts of Native California.
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In 1969 a group of neighbors occupied the strip of land along Hearst that BART filled in after digging a tunnel for the new rapid transit system. They planted trees, built a series of DIY play structures (like the one pictured above), and cultivated gardens.
Volunteer parties on weekends and sometimes during the week brought out dozens of neighbors. Often music and food tempted many more to visit and enjoy the merriment.