A decade ago the voters of Oakland passed a bond measure known as Measure DD -- the Oakland Trust for Clean Water and Safe Parks. Nowhere have the benefits of the $198 million bond been more widely felt than in and around Lake Merritt.
A free event on June 9, "Love Our Lake Day," promises to acknowledge and celebrate these exciting improvements.
Residents and visitors will be able to experience firsthand how the DD projects have transformed the lake and surrounding parkland with new landscaping, landmark building renovations, pathways and bridges -- making walking and biking the perimeter safer and easier than ever.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., streets around the lake will be closed to cars, so pedestrians and bicyclists can make their way to a variety of recreational and cultural activities. See a listing of all the events at www.loveourlakeday.com or by calling 510-444-CITY. Mobile phone users can access the information at tndrbox.com/loveourlake.
A dedication ceremony at 2 p. m. at the south end of the lake will celebrate the grand opening of Lake Merritt Boulevard, formerly 12th Street, the site of a new amphitheater, a 4-acre park and pedestrian foot bridge spanning the newly reopened tidal channel.
Mayor Jean Quan and other city elected officials will be joined by Naomi Schiff and James Vann, representatives of a citizens oversight group known as the Measure DD Community Coalition, to "cut the ribbon" and mark the completion of this major transformative milestone.
It was Schiff, a graphics design business owner and preservationist, and Vann, a local architect, who a decade ago decided to gather together a volunteer group of interested design professionals to sketch out plans to eliminate the cumbersome 1950s-era multilane expressway and overpass at the 12th Street end of the lake.
As Schiff recalls, this "mini-freeway" was constructed to benefit speeding crosstown traffic, not to encourage walking or biking. Dank subterranean tunnels were another aspect of the 12th Street that needed to be addressed, she said.
From those initial sketches came the transformation we see today, Schiff said.
It was Dr. Samuel Merritt (1822-1890), a New Englander who was an early town founder and mayor, who in the 1870s put up his own funds to build a dam at the south end of the tidal marsh to create a lake. In the early 20th century, another mayor, Frank K. Mott (1866-1968), oversaw many lake area improvements, including the construction of a lakeside boulevard, a municipal boathouse and viewing pavilion and the establishment of the city's first public museum (today's Camron-Stanford House).
Love Our Lake Day is being presented by the City of Oakland, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and the Measure DD Community Coalition, with event sponsorship in part provided by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Sierra Club and the Lake Merritt-Uptown District Association.
Want to learn more about the history of Lake Merritt? Currently at the Oakland History Room in the Main Library is an exhibit, "Waters of Oakland," which traces the story of how a tidal marsh on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay was transformed into a 140-acre fresh water/salt water urban lake. Call 510-238-3222 for hours and more information.
Another good source of information on the DD progress is www.waterfrontaction.org, where past notes from the coalition group's meetings are available, as well as a link to a fascinating two-minute video showing time lapse footage of the 12th Street transformation.