Original Propaganda For East Bay Parks

Since the East Bay Regional Park District celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, various historical artifacts are getting dusted off.  Until today, we had not noticed this great piece of propaganda – which encourages locals to vote for the creation of the parks.

Regional Park Proposal

When you look at the boosterism, it makes the East Bay look positively serene.  Except for that guy declaring “a job,” the Depression ills have been sidelined here.

According to the Park District, California Governor James Rolph authorized the district’s formation in 1933 subject to the approval of district residents.   This cartoon and other efforts helped mobilize voters from San Leandro to Albany, and the parks were approved by a landslide – 2.5 to 1 – on November 4, 1934.

Did the Park District deliver what it promised?  This campaign promised easier access, fishing, hiking, swimming, camping and a deer sighting or two.  The district delivered on those scores for sure.  Our prescient conservation efforts are remarkable, even though many of you (us) quibble with tree-cutting and trail policies today.

Alameda and Contra Costa voters still gives thumbs-up when additional ballot measures appear to support the parks – most recently last year.  Something must have worked out well, after all.

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Doing the East Bay Parks Challenge

Here’s a 26.2-mile marathon that almost anyone should be able to race, because you have over nine months to complete the feat.  If you cover those miles through the East Bay Regional Parks, then you will be duly rewarded with swag.

We just received the East Bay Regional Park District activity guide today, wrapped neatly into the Montclarion.  After thumbing through all the activities, the Trails Challenge 2009 caught my eye and I decided to sign up.

Typically I head to the ridge trails right in our backyard, which means walking at Chabot, Redwood, Huckleberry, Sibley, Tilden or Wildcat.  However this Trails Challenge lures you to other places, by describing specific and seasonal routes throughout the East Bay.

Morgan Territory

Thus, I have decided to head East tomorrow and officially begin the challenge.  My first hike will be a 9.75 miler through the Morgan Territory (trail map, location).  This territory is in the hinterlands, technically in Livermore and looking west to Mt. Diablo.  While it will probably be quite muddy, I’m game for the exploration and postcard view.

The Trails Challenge doesn’t require you to slog that far, though.  Between now and December 1st, you only need to walk that marathon distance or tackle five hikes.  Actually you are free to hike, run, skate, bike or otherwise operate under your own horsepower.  The Parks District has provided a complete handbook (download here) which identifies 20 routes rated as easy, moderate or challenging.

What’s the real draw?  If you return your forms correctly, then the Parks District rewards you too – with a cool 75th anniversary commemorative pin and t-shirt.  Not a bad excuse to get moving and to breathe a little fresh air.

Who Is Bob Walker?

Lover of the East Bay Regional Parks, photographer Bob Walker was an activist who wanted to preserve as much land as possible.  He would have been quite happy about Measure WW passing, which extended the East Bay Regional Bond that he advocated through Measure AA.

Walker spoke through his photographs, not only snapping iconic vistas but also capturing other important open space perspectives.  Look at these examples below, showing the quiet perfection of fragile salt flats or new streets snaking into the landscape.

Bob Walker Collection

Bob became an environmentalist by chance, through his lenses.  He lead hikes, hosted slide shows, and took thousands of photos.  He’s known today by the ridge named in his honor, within the Morgan Territory Regional Preserve that he helped save.

Walker left behind 40,000 photographs of the parks, which he snapped between 1982-1992 for the Park District.  After his death in 1992, these images were eventually donated to and archived by the Oakland Museum.

The Museum periodically displays some of Walker treasures, including an exhibit of 40 selected images that closes today.  No worries, as there are many ways to check out the Walker collection online or in print – or just walk around the East Bay Parks legacy instead.

More info:   Some of Bob Walker’s images are available through this quick virtual slideshow.  The Wilderness Press also published After the Storm last year, a larger collection which is currently available from Amazon.  Learn more about Bob’s story, from the After the Storm exhibit several years ago.

Montclair Equals Measure WW

The November 4th election is really important, at least in our beloved East Bay backyard.  Yes there’s a presidential race and all, but Measure WW matters directly – because it improves local parks by extending the “existing East Bay Regional Park District bond with no increase in tax rate.”

You can’t avoid the wilderness/urban interface living in Montclair, and Measure WW helps preserve more non-renewable, open spaces throughout the East Bay.  Check out this interactive map, where you can insert any address and see what projects are planned nearby.

We’re lucky to live in a bucolic outpost, with the parks right up the hill.  As quick inspiration, here are some familiar Redwood and Briones scenes by local artist David Miller.

We’re unabashedly pro-WW at Today in Montclair, aligning with all the arguments for the measure and supporting the range of land acquisition and other benefits for East Bay residents.  After all,  we’re blessed with Redwood, Sibley and Huckleberry nearby, and see them as gems.

What about the folks who say no on WWW in November?  They just received an unintended boost when the ballots forgot to print the Measure WW title and description, which is a shame.  Generally, they believe trails are mismanaged, feel they are overly grazed, and want more places to bike as well.

While some of the Park District’s trail practices or fire suppression activities might raise valid concerns, it seems like we should all agree that establishing conservation funds is a common good.  Plus it costs $10 max per $100k home value, nothing different than rates that are expiring now.

We don’t literally live in the wilderness, and are lucky to have open spaces at all.  When you fly over the hills, there’s a noticeable difference in the Bay Area versus any other major urban area – so let’s try to save the open spaces, however imperfect.