Correspondent

SUNOL -- A century-old temple, designed to be a symbol of the meeting of waterways in the Tri-Valley area, is closer to getting a second chance to shine.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission unveiled a plan Monday to construct a state-of-the-art interpretive center, along with trails and renovations to existing yard facilities, on a 36,000-acre watershed area along Alameda Creek in Sunol. The area is highlighted by a Romanesque "water temple," constructed in 1910 and modeled after an ancient temple in Tivoli, Italy.

The SFPUC, which controls the land, has been criticized in the past for underutilizing the space around the temple, which has relatively few trails or interactive features. It's closed on weekends, which is a point of contention amongst locals who want to visit the area, but open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

A picnic area, which is now closed to the public, will be reopened following improvements at the Sunol Water Temple photographed in Sunol, Calif., on
A picnic area, which is now closed to the public, will be reopened following improvements at the Sunol Water Temple photographed in Sunol, Calif., on Friday, Sep. 7, 2012. (Anda Chu/Staff)

The plan is to make the area into a popular stop for folks looking to learn ways the area's natural waterways affect wildlife.

"Except for winter, when it rains, the creek is usually dry. So we need the interpretive center to demonstrate and show folks (the local ecosystem)," said Tim Ramirez, the PUC's director of natural resources and management.

The 10,000 square-foot interpretive center will contain wall-to-ceiling museums, two large, interactive touch-screens that will be used as a massive e- archive of documents and artifacts, as well as a realistic recreation of the creek itself, which is designed to provide a somewhat imperceptible transition into the outdoor creek area.


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"That stream really is speaking for itself," said Jenny Rigby, director of The Acorn Group, which is working with the PUC. "We hope it's that 'awe' moment, where you're just watching it in utter amazement."

Sunol residents who attended the meeting to unveil the plan seemed to generally approve of the PUC and Acorn's presentation. Many said they'd been following the plans carefully since the original idea to revitalize the temple area came up in 2011.

The PUC and Acorn will make another presentation this fall, when artist renderings will be presented. Construction is expected to start in December 2015 or January 2016.

The 39-foot tall temple was built in 1910 by the privately owned Spring Valley Water Co. San Francisco bought the land in 1930 to acquire rights to Alameda Creek and to ship water from Hetch Hetchy Valley in the Sierras throughout the Bay Area.