Snug along the Albany border on Kains Avenue is a verdant new Berkeley open space where monarchs fly among the yellow oxalis flowers common throughout the neighborhood.
Creek lovers, government workers and city officials gathered at the Codornices Creek restoration project Saturday to ceremoniously cut the ribbon on the “Kains Avenue Park,” a $1 million public works development that daylighted a 181-foot stretch of the creek from an almost 100-year-old culvert and created a path alongside it.
The project was first conceived around three decades ago and is an outgrowth of a larger, $8.5 million project near University Village that was completed more than a decade ago.
“The creek was just a ditch that flooded the site,” said Ann Riley of the California Urban Streams Partnership. It was also full of crumpled concrete, failing retaining walls, trash and other debris. “Today is a genuine celebration of getting the work done. The hard work is over.”
But Berkeley’s newest park, at 1100 Kains Ave., is not open to the public quite yet. Surrounded by new fences and adorned by a mural of the site by local artist Stefen, for now it’s only accessible to volunteers, who will have to sign release forms to do planting and maintenance work.
Once funding is secured to build a larger trail and footbridge, the park will open to public access. (The city doesn’t have an estimate for when this work will be completed.)
“It’s wonderful that it’s finally come to fruition,” said creek neighbor Louise Berman. “We’ve been talking about it and meeting about it for years. It’s such a fabulous place and it looks so wonderful now. So much better than it was.”
Berkeley Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani, whose district includes the park, said it’s satisfying to see a dream come true for the Bay Area’s creek lovers who have worked so hard to get various government agencies to agree to bring this project to light.
“This has been years in the making and it really shows the power of community members persisting and making sure this happens despite the delays,” she said.
James McGrath of the State of California Regional Water Quality Control Board was also at the community ribbon-cutting celebration, where creek restoration leaders invited the neighborhood to a potluck lunch. As cookies and sandwiches were munched, McGrath was one of the government leaders who stood up and asked for a round of applause for Riley’s tenacity.
He said all the culverts in parks are failing and projects like this one are needed all over the Bay Area. Along with monarchs and swallowtails, creek lovers hope this area will also attract steelhead trout, which were once native to the area.
The project is expected to reduce flooding, along with bringing more natural beauty to the area.
“We do this for the kids,” McGrath said. “Kids need to see the monarch and swallowtail. They need to be outside rather than looking at the next levels on their video games.”
About half of the $1 million to daylight 181-feet of creek on the property came from the Department of Water Resources, Urban Streams Restoration Program and the rest came out of the city of Berkeley’s coffers — mainly from the Department of Public Works’ storm drains budget.
Riley said the neighbors will take care of the spot during downtimes and Berkeley Public Works project manager Srinivas Muktevi said the Department of Public Works employees will clear trash out of the daylighted creek every time an inch of rain falls in the Bay Area.
But even if it is not open to the general public just yet, as the project near University Villages is, creek activists like Susan Schwartz and Riley said this is the next step in creating a more natural environment around the city.