In researching People’s Park for a book to be published by Heyday next year, I learned that People’s Park of 1969 was not Berkeley’s first People’s Park. For three weeks in 1968, there was another people’s park at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way, named in honor of a local ecologist who died in a car accident.
Chuck Herrick and Cliff Humphrey launched Ecology Action in Berkeley in 1968 to promote ecological life. Herrick was a Vietnam veteran who was trained in the fields of zoology and architecture. He did considerable work on the septic system of the rural commune, Morningstar. Founded by Lou Gottlieb, a former member of the folk-singing trio Limeliters, Morningstar was known as the “digger farm” in the Haight, supplying apples and other organic fruits and vegetables to the Free Food programs.
Herrick met Humphrey at an organizing meeting of the Peace and Freedom Party. He was quoted in the Berkeley Barb of April 26 through May 9, 1979, as having said, “When land is vacant, we must raise the issue. We must put it to use as a park, a baseball diamond, anything but a lot with a path across it.”
Herrick was killed in an automobile accident in Salt Lake City on May 2, 1968, on his way to a Peace and Freedom Party convention in Ann Arbor.
Two days later, Humphrey and other ecology activists converted a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Dwight Way and Telegraph Avenue into a park in honor of Herrick. Social activist Jerry Rubin once lived in an apartment on the corner, recently demolished in the photograph below.
The park was officially called the C. P. Herrick Peace & Freedom Park, but the Berkeley Barb called it a “people’s park” in a headline in the May 10-16, 1968 Barb.
Ecology Action put out a call for help.
People responded. They showed up to do the manual labor to prepare and plant the lot.
For a few weeks, Ecology Action served free soup and bread at this small piece of “liberated land” in Herrick’s memory.
The park was dismantled without incident, but the Herrick people’s park had a legacy. We know that Michael Delacour signed a petition maintained at the park to support its continuation. A few months later he would convene a meeting in the Red Square Dress Shop on Dwight and launch the building of People’s Park as we know it in the block bound by Telegraph, Haste, Bowditch and Dwight.
Humphrey and Ecology Action negotiated with the city of Berkeley to make a mini-park to honor Herrick in the triangle island at Dwight and Telegraph produced by the rounded lane for traffic heading off Dwight south onto Telegraph.
To close the loop, on May 28, 1969, in the midst of the People’s Park movement of 1969, there was an all-day teach-in at Lower Sproul Plaza entitled “The Politics of Ecology,” which was broadcast live on KPFA. Speakers addressed themselves to various aspects of the Park – urban planning, ecology, politics. One of the speakers was Cliff Humphrey from Ecology Action.
Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone, some with follow-up professional photographs by John Storey.
Dalzell is currently researching People’s Park 1969 for a book to be published on its 50th anniversary in 2019 by Heyday. Anyone who would like to contribute photographs, memories, or ephemera may contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.