PIEDMONT -- Blair Park is sorely in need of an eco-friendly makeover, residents told the Park Commission at the Oct. 2 meeting.
Restoration Design Group, of Berkeley, was awarded $15,000 to do a landscape study as part of the settlement agreement between Friends of Moraga Canyon, the city and Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization. RDG presented its preliminary findings at the meeting. Their charge is to prepare an improvement plan that will enhance wildlife and plant habitat, make the park more appealing to visitors and improve the appearance of the "gateway" to Piedmont.
Funds for those eventual improvements could come from a private-public partnership. PRFO had plans to build a youth sports complex at Blair which was scrapped last year because of a lack of funds.
Bob Birkeland of RDG explained what was found at Blair, which many years ago was used as a dump for leftover landfill from nearby road projects. There is a healthy live oak grove, with some bay, plum and maple trees, blackberry and ivy vines and various shrubs.
Jim Clark, of Hortscience, consulting with RDG said most of the 54 Monterey pines along the berm bordering Moraga Avenue are in poor shape from insect infestation and weakened structure and should be removed. Clark said invasive ivy and blackberry vines weaken other trees in the park and should be pulled. He noted a lack of care and irrigation has caused a decline in vegetation.
Morrisa Sherman, who lives nearby, said she enjoys picking the fruit at the park to make preserves, but understood the invasive nature of the blackberry vines. The park is a wildlife habitat.
"Looking down on the park, I've seen hawks, voles, eight foxes, coyotes, birds and gophers," she said, adding that improved accessibility for the mobility-challenged would be a plus.
Resident Sinan Sabuncuoglu told the commission, "Let's protect and restore the native vegetation for everyone to enjoy. Maybe put in a few benches and a teaching garden. Use Bay-Friendly Landscaping."
Rick Schiller said the story poles erected by PRFO earlier need to be removed.
"Make (Blair) something seniors can use, maybe with a putting green," he said.
Marj Blackwell, of the Friends of Moraga Canyon, said the group would be happy to provide volunteer work parties and raise funds for park improvement. A more detailed assessment, an illustrated schematic and cost estimates for tree pruning and removal was requested by the commission for its Dec. 12 meeting.