For generations, Aquatic Park has provided Berkeley residents with a lush green retreat from urban life. Picnicking along the shoreline, walking, bicycling, and rowing remain popular traditional park activities while water-skiing and disc golf have become quite popular more recently. The middle pond was for many years the site of model sailing boat races and today is a favorite spot for bird watchers.
From its very beginning, Aquatic Park has been a user-developed park; for example most of the historic Monterey Cypress were planted by Berkeley citizens, and the lush landscaping with native vegetation on the east side of the park is the result of park users initiatives in the 1970s. Member concern has also led to a wide range of more recent improvements, including a reduction of street runoff into the lagoon, and funding for many capital improvements, the acquisition of the KBLX property at the south end of the park, and a comprehensive wildlife habitat management plan.
Friends of Aquatic Park was founded in 1963, when the parks very existence was threatened by developers who wanted to fill in the lagoons to build a business park. Park users realized the importance of community cooperation, and in response to the determined activism of founder Florence Menard and many others, the Berkeley City Council voted to declare the park a permanent civic resource.
Currently, Friends of Aquatic Park, is working to assist the City of Berkeley to obtain an appropriately designed landscaped berm sound barrier adjacent to I-80 freeway. The barrier is part of the Aquatic Park Master Plan, and will be constructed by Caltrans using Federal Highway Administration funding. This barrier will be the first environmentally sensitive alternative solution to the standard Caltrans concrete block soundwall. Other funded projects at the park are a span across I-80 to link the park with the Bay Trail and the Eastshore State Park, multiple facility improvements, and a new federally funded play structure for children.
Constructed in the 1930s along Berkeleys original shoreline, Aquatic Park consists of a series of three lagoons and surrounding lawns, marshlands, and woods extending along I-80 from Ashby Avenue to University Avenue. As Berkeleys largest city park, it serves as a major recreational resource for residents as well as visitors from throughout the Bay Area.
The eastern portion, with its winding pathway landscaped with native plants, is a popular place to stroll. Its level terrain makes it ideal for those with limited mobility or pushing a stroller. Picnic tables and benches provide places to enjoy at a leisurely pace the spectacular views of the ponds, the lush greenery, and the rich variety of shorebirds.
An open field near the parks north entrance is often the site of pick-up soccer games. Its western border marks the beginning of the 18-hole disc golf course, one of only 3 in the Bay Area. The 2 1/4 mile loop trail around the main lagoon is ideal for longer walks and is a natural attraction for runners and cyclists since it is sheltered from both wind and traffic. Dog walkers find the park a welcoming and verdant retreat from city streets.
Access to the north end of the park is from either Addison or Bancroft Streets, south of University Avenue. The International Bird Rescue Research Center, The Kenneth Hayes Memorial Boathouse of the Berkeley Paddling & Rowing Club, and the launching dock of the Berkeley Water Ski Club, are all reached by following Bay Street in Emeryville to its northern extension where it becomes Bolivar Drive. Drivers on 1-80 coming from Oakland or San Francisco can exit the freeway at Ashby Avenue and bear right on the off-ramp. The ramp ends at Bay Street; a left turn brings you into the park.