Codornices Creek daylighting activists celebrate $1M restoration project

A ribbon-cutting was held Saturday for the new Kains Avenue Park, but the park’s opening to the public is still a ways off.

Amira Hurst of Albany crosses Codornices Creek at Kains Avenue Park on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Amira Hurst of Albany crosses Codornices Creek at Kains Avenue Park on Feb. 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

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 recently-daylighted section of Codornices Creek at Kains Avenue Park, as seen on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Kains Avenue Park. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
The newly-daylighted section of Codornices Creek emerges from the Kains Avenue culvert at at Kains Avenue Park on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Kains Avenue Park. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

“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. 

Angelynn Hurst of Albany plants native species along the banks of Codornices Creek at Kains Avenue Park on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Angelynn Hurst of Albany plants native species along the creek’s banks. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Albany residents Angela Roddy and Terri Fashing plant native species along the banks of Codornices Creek at Kains Avenue Park on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Albany residents Angela Roddy and Terri Fashing. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

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.

Austin Kesarwani of Berkeley crosses Codornices Creek at Kains Avenue Park on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Austin Kesarwani, the son of Berkeley Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani (holding coffee cup), crosses Codornices Creek at Kains Avenue Park on Feb. 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

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.

Neighbors of the park participate in a potluck lunch at Kains Avenue Park on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Neighbors of the park participate in a potluck lunch at Kains Avenue Park on Feb. 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

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.

Volunteers plant native species along the banks of Codornices Creek at Kains Avenue Park on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Volunteers do planting work in Kains Avenue Park on Feb. 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

“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.

Berkeley muralist Stefen painted this scene over Codornices Creek in 2002. Thanks to the restoration and daylighting of the creek, his vision now more closely echoes reality at Kains Avenue Park, as seen on February 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Berkeley muralist Stefen painted this scene over Codornices Creek in 2002. Thanks to the restoration and daylighting of the creek, his vision now more closely echoes reality at Kains Avenue Park, as seen on Feb. 19, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Laura Casey is a freelance writer covering Berkeley and the East Bay.