Butters Canyon Still Protected

When you look at the Oakland Hills from afar, you see many different canyons whether they are filled with homes or not.  Most of the open spaces are formally protected as parkland by the City of Oakland or East Bay Regional Park District.  Unfortunately, other natural areas like Butters Canyon are at risk unless locals take up the mantel themselves.

Where is Butters Canyon?

Well, the Canyon is nearby.  You head up to Joaquin Miller Park, turn right on Butters Drive and loop around narrow streets until you see the drop-offs.  We ventured over this afternoon, and were suitably impressed by all the open hills and steeps there.

Butters Canyon - View 1- Sept 23, 2009

In this first photo taken today, you can see the undeveloped hillside and trees in Butters Canyon.  You also glimpse a bit of the canyon floor as well as some open land peeking through the trees.

Butters Canyon - View 2 - Sept 23, 2009

This next shot was taken from a different section, where you look straight down from the road to the gully.  Now you have a better sense of the canyon floor.  Doesn’t this place already look like protected parkland?

Butters Canyon - View 3 - Sept 23, 2009

In this last shot, you can also see a clear path running through the canyon.  Keep in mind this trail isn’t actively maintained like those used in Joaquin Miller Park or even Dimond Park, but it’s just as nice.

Butters Canyon is home to the Peralta Creek headwaters, which flow down to the San Francisco Bay.  The open spaces are a little larger than you might expect, and filled with natural growth and wildlife that look familiar to East Bayers.

Conservancy Gets Started

The Butters Canyon Conservancy, formerly known as the Butters Land Trust, grew out of preservation efforts by concerned neighbors who collectively had formed Friends of the Last Wild Canyon – an appropriate cry for help years ago.

By the 1990s, the group had developed maps and understood who owned parcels in the remaining wild canyon.  Fast forward and this group currently owns four parcels, with conservation easements (or equivalent recorded restrictions) for six more parcels.

David Barron, who serves as Conservancy president, reported they have raised about $600,000 cash and $285,000 in land donations through the life of the group.  This amount also includes well over $300,000 from Oakland’s Measure DD funds, which jump-started the efforts and donations.

Conservancy’s Expectations

“For the immediate future, there is still one more creekside property we’d like to obtain, and we’d like to obtain conservation easements over a couple others,” explained President Barron.  “We don’t know how much that might cost us, or whether we’ll be able to obtain them.”

Unfortunately, the group can’t bank on more public funds for land acquisition or ongoing maintenance either.  Although Joaquin Miller Park, Leona Canyon and Redwood Regional Parks are fairly close, the Butters Canyon isn’t contiguous to any of them – and so it’s impractical to expect additional help.

Butters Canyon’s a special case, which was fortunate to receive a little Oakland support.  However the ecosystem depends on what the Butters Canyon Conservancy can do to keep it natural, protected and wild today.

How You Can Help Out

The Butters Canyon Conservancy still needs your financial support.  “We’re trying to raise funds to pay off an existing acquisition loan, and fund the acquisition of (or conservation easements over) the remaining unprotected properties,” explained David Barron.

We can all respond by showing up to the Butter’s happening party next Thursday, October 1st, at the Montclair Bistro.  It costs $25 at the door or $20 for pre-registration, with proceeds to the Conservancy.

Just drop by the Montclair Bistro anytime between 6-9pm on Thursday.  City Council Rep Jean Quan, who helped obtain the original Measure DD funding, will pour your drinks.  The Bistro will cater nice noshes, plus offer a $10 discount for more hearty fare.  In addition, there will be a silent auction and many door prizes.

You must be present for the door prize drawings, but they are definitely a lure from:

A. G. Ferrari Foods – Chabot Space & Science – Claremont Hotel & Spa – Crogan’s Montclair – Dashe Cellars – Farmstead Cheeses and Wines – Italian Colors Ristorante – Lake Chalet – Melt Massage Montclair Bistro – Montclair Physical Therapy & Wellness – re4m – William Gray Designs

So the Butters Canyon Conservancy is rolling out the red carpet to Montclair and other Oakland Hills neighbors.  While we all have our “home canyons” in the hills, the Butters group needs help to service their preservation debts.  Even if you can’t make it, try to donate a little something anyway.

More info:  Bistro RSVP appreciated to Lynette Cravens, BCCEvent@lynettecravens.com or call (415) 694-3004.  You may send $20/person in advance, by making checks payable to:  Butters Land Trust, 3039 Burdeck Drive, Oakland, CA 94602.  You may also pay or donate online, by clicking here.

Welcome To Germany, Oakland

Germany, Oakland?  At least last weekend, German transplants and their heirs showed up at Dunsmuir to honor their roots.  There was a full-on celebration with dancing, flag waving, and local clubs in attendance.  The brats, sauerkraut and beers were plentiful too.

The 79th Annual German Fest was large enough that a German diplomat made a quick and unofficial appearance.  He marveled at the beers ‘n brats love from Americans and wanted to set the record straight.  Apparently Octoberfests are not, in fact, something that most Germans celebrate at all.  The Bavarian Germans are into them, along with Americans.

Flag Parade, Dunsmuir

The main ceremony was something called a Fahneneinmarsch, or Flag Parade, where folks marched up the stairs and were acknowledged by all – like these ladies in dirndle-inspired garb.  We don’t think anyone in Germany wears this stuff anymore, right?

Dancers, Dunsmuir

The dance troupe exceeded our expectations (!) and performed all kinds of traditional numbers.  My favorite was the dance featuring one man and two women vying for his attention, with one winning the prize.  It was entertaining to watch these evergreen performers and their kids.

Which Flag, Dunsmuir

Just to prevent cognitive dissonance, the flag bearers put California, the USA and Germany on equal footing.  The Alpiner band played the US and German national anthems too.  After all, the United German-American Societies of the East Bay (UGAS) organized the festival.

Where is Germany, Oakland? Around Oakland, there are vestiges of the settlers.  The German Tourist Club is a long-standing group which seeks to “foster, perpetuate and preserve the European Alpine social activities, cultural heritage and customs.”  The Club also holds a Biergartenfest every year in the “Oakland Alps,” at their Butters Drive clubhouse.

You also can’t miss the Altenheim, that grand old building on MacArthur Blvd.  The building has been well-renovated and recently celebrated 100 years on the hill.  There’s low-cost senior housing there now, and plans for more units.

The Excelsior German Center, which runs the Altenheim, has a much larger mission to encourage cultural and educational connections with Germany.  They run German language classes and have a library there.  According to Excelsior’s president, Michael Willis, there are some interesting plans afoot – so it’s not all beers ‘n brats really.

Council Says Pay ‘Til 8pm

Last night, the Oakland City Council decided that we’ll have to continue paying for parking until 8pm.  The howls of protest weren’t enough to sway the Council, who had extended meter hours as a revenue-producing move earlier this year.

Parking Meter-Machines

We know from our parking suvey that Montclarions are quite ticked-off by the extended hours, with 59 percent giving the move a resounding thumbs-down and another 6 percent saying it wasn’t okay.  We’re accepting the rate increases and even the newfangled meters lately, but residents say that longer hours have changed the Village zeitgeist.

Last night, the City Council split over the matter of meter hours.  In the roll-back corner were District 4’s Rep Jean Quan, as well as Reps Jane Brunner, Pat Kernighan and Larry Reid.  The other council members abstained, including Desley Brooks, Rebecca Kaplan and Nancy Nadel.  Ignacio De La Fuentes wasn’t at the meeting.

It’s all about the city coffers.  The roll-back (to 6pm) contingent have come up with alternative ways to earn revenues, but not the full $1.3 million take from this extra two hours’ meter time nightly.  Other council members seem to be folding their arms until that entire amount can be delivered elsewhere.

According to the Tribune, the matter will return to the City Council in two weeks.  Local citizens and merchants have not been able to sway the group yet.  It will come down to showing the money…from where?

Free Museum Admission Day, On Saturday

Don’t look this gift horse in the mouth.  There’s a free museum admission day this coming Saturday, and you may pick from 16 participating Bay Area museums – including Chabot Space & Science and the Exploratorium.

All you need to do is register online for an admissions card, and bring the printed admission with you on Saturday.  Each card is good for you and a guest, or else one per household.

Museum Day - Admission Form

Here are all the Bay Area museums where the free admission will be honored.  Just click on the museum websites below and decide which place would appeal to you most:

We like that the Smithsonian Magazine sponsors this freebie, all over the country.  It’s a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday, soaking in a little curated culture.

Proof That Oakland Hills Don’t Exist

In case you wondered, Montclair and the Oakland Hills don’t really exist.  We live in a state of mind, at least from the perspective of mass transit.  BART recently revised their maps and removed curves a bit.  Then Burrito Justice created a hyperlinear version that vanquishes us, forever.

Take a look at the BART-produced map, where you can detect a slight angle south between Orinda and Rockridge.  We believe that tips the hat to Montclair, a bit.  Then notice the large curve as you head south from Rockridge to MacArthur, where there’s some space to fit the Oakland Hills.  While we don’t exist here, at least you see terra incognitas.

BART - New Linear Map

Now check out Burrito Justice, where they decided to remove all the curves from the BART transit lines entirely.  Their hyperlinear map sure looks graphically interesting, but creates big problems for us.

Yes, we have been wiped off the planet!  Note the straight line between Orinda and Rockridge, with no possibility for Montclair.  Then look at where MacArthur, 19th and City Center are placed, directly below Orinda and Rockridge.  There is literally no place for the Oakland Hills in a square world.

Burrito Justice - Hyperlinear BART

Everyone already gets confused about geo-political borders for the Montclair District and the Oakland Hills.  We describe them by the nearby highways, and that usually does the trick.  But now these BART map oversights are insulting at best and nefarious at worst.

Armed with our cheshire cat grins, we declare that “we live in an imaginary place.”  Though we swore there were people, homes, schools, parks and a downtown village around here…somewhere.