Photo: Martin Nicolaus
A paddle boarder and the Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Cesar Chavez Park. Photo: Martin Nicolaus

Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus is passionate about Cesar Chavez Park. So much so that he has started the Friends of Cesar Chavez Park website and published a new photo book about the park titled “From Trash to Treasure, the Splendors of Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park.” Berkeleyside caught up with Nicolaus to hear more about his love affair with our park by the bay.

How long have you had an interest in Cesar Chavez Park? 

Eleven years now. In 2004 I bought a big DSLR camera and started taking pictures in the park. Three years later I became co-parent of a wonderful dog who wanted daily walks. Going to the park became like a religious ritual. It’s the same park but the view is always different, every day.

Photo: Martin Nicolaus
Photo: Martin Nicolaus

Do you live near Cesar Chavez Park? 

We live near the Monterey Market. We moved here in 1992. It’s a 12-minute drive or a 20-minute bike ride to the park.

What brought you here?

Basically, the schools. My kids went to Jefferson and then King and then Berkeley High. And we appreciate the great neighborhood around the Market.

Photo: Martin Nicolaus
Photo: Martin Nicolaus

What do you enjoy doing at Cesar Chavez Park? 

We roam all over the park. Sometimes (not often enough) we walk the whole perimeter path at a fast clip, against a stopwatch. Sometimes we just ramble. And I often stop to take a photo.

When did you set up the Friends of Cesar Chavez Park website and why? Tell us who’s involved and what you hope to achieve with it?

I set up the Friends of Cesar Chavez Park website because there was more to say and more to show about the park than would fit into my little book.

What is good about Cesar Chavez Park and what needs attention?

The park is great. Love that park. But there’s potential for improvement. No. 1, the plastic Porta Potties have got to go. The park needs permanent, flush-toilet restrooms, same as Aquatic Park and other Berkeley parks.

Tell us about the book of photos: why did you decide to produce it?

I’m not a fancy photographer. I dumped my big DSLR a while ago and now shoot with a Panasonic that fits into my shirt pocket. I couldn’t justify producing a high-price coffee-table book. The project clicked for me when I found out that’s CreateSpace division could produce tolerable paperback photo books at a fraction of the cost of the high-end vendors.

Photo: Martin Nicolaus
Photo: Martin Nicolaus

How can people get hold of the book? 

Online. Or catch me in the park some afternoon selling the book from an ironing board.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes. I’m concerned about the repeated vandalism that’s hit the Cesar Chavez Solar Calendar and some other park installations. Please everyone keep an eye out for whoever’s doing this, and let’s put a stop to it.

Enjoy a bird’s eye tour of Cesar Chavez Park captured from a drone, uploaded to YouTube by Mauricio Soto last month.

Reward offered for identification of Cesar Chavez Park vandal (10.13.14) 
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)
Berkeley bans feeding of wild animals in parks, public spaces (10.03.14) 
Berkeley squirrels safe from extermination, for now (03.27.14)
Berkeley to kill squirrels, gophers to protect bay (02.19.14)
Western Burrowing Owls are back on the Berkeley Marina (01.06.14)
Exotic Muntjac deer loose in danger in Cesar Chavez Park (03.11.11)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...