The solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park has been the target of recurring vandalism over the past few months. Photo: Chris Benton

The city of Berkeley is offering a $1,000 reward for the identification of the person or people responsible for the recurring vandalism of the solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park.

Since the spring, educational placards have been repeatedly smashed and dozens of stones have disappeared from the installation, which is a memorial to the late labor organizer.

“It stops for a little bit, maybe a week or two, then comes back,” said Santiago Casal, director of the project. “We recently got hit twice in the matter of a few days.”

So far over 200 stones from the installation’s retaining wall have been taken or tossed around, requiring 28 hours of repair work, Casal said.

The city council approved the $1,000 reward at its Oct. 7 meeting.

“It’s very unfortunate and outrageous that people are doing this, and we need to stop it,” said Councilman Kriss Worthington, who introduced the reward item. “I’m sure the city of Berkeley can afford a tiny amount from the various different funds.”

Over 200 stones have been removed or displaced from the installation’s retaining wall. Photo: Santiago Casal
Over 200 stones have been removed or displaced from the installation’s retaining wall. Photo: Santiago Casal

The vandalism of the memorial initially coincided with the destruction of new signposts delineating where dogs in the park are permitted to be off-leash. This led Casal and others to believe the vandalism is linked to an ongoing dispute about dog park boundaries.

In 1998, the city approved a 17-acre off-leash dog area at César Chávez Park, but the borders have not always been clearly marked or enforced, Casal said. When new boundary posts were installed earlier this year, a few were initially placed in the wrong area, further upsetting the off-leash dog advocates.

Casal said he knows and gets along with many of the dog owners who use the park, but a few, including one who “verbally assaulted” him at the solar calendar site in the spring, concern him.

“It’s a territorial dispute,” said Parks and Waterfront Commissioner Toni Mester. “The perp knows full well where the boundaries are. This is a conscious effort and frankly a very infantile one.”

Following the vandalism against the off-leash area boundary posts in the spring, the Parks and Waterfront Commission held public meetings to determine appropriate signage.

Most of the new signs — which feature bold type and graphics of on- and off-leash dogs— have been placed in the park, and the rest will be installed in the next week or so, said Waterfront Manager John Mann.

After a “period of education,” dog owners who repeatedly ignore the boundaries may receive warnings and possibly citations, Mann said.

“Most people are pretty accommodating once you talk to them,” said Mann, who has been monitoring the solar calendar and has not noticed vandalism in the past couple weeks.

Casal said the offer of a reward will help draw attention to the memorial site.

“The idea is you post the reward in the park and it gets more eyes,” he said. “Feel like going for a walk? Keep your eyes on the site and see if you see anything.”

Vandals target César Chávez memorial, dog park markers (08.13.14)
Dog owners beg City of Berkeley to remove dangerous foxtails at César Chávez Park (07.01.14)

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Natalie Orenstein

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...