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Friends of Halcyon Commons

Contact:

Nancy Carleton  (510) 644-0172
John Thelen Steere (510) 849-1969

Summer 2006 Update: Rejuvination Project

Description of Halcyon Commons

Halcyon Commons is a community-designed and initiated park dedicated in the summer of 1996 in a South Berkeley neighborhood to the southwest of the Ashby-Telegraph intersection. Once a twenty-eight space parking lot, the site of Halcyon Commons was transformed into a public greenspace following a four-year process of community involvement led by Halcyon Neighborhood Association. Community members participated in hands-on design workshops to select the chief features for the park, and secured the support of the Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council for the project. The park was funded through a partnership approach that augmented city funding with sweat equity and contributions from local businesses. Volunteers helped remove asphalt as ground was broken in 1995, and then worked side-by-side with city gardeners to plant trees and flowering shrubs and to lay sod in mid-1996. The park includes a tire swing, a community bulletin board, a community herb and flower garden, a wisteria-covered arbor, a grass field, and many trees and flowering bushes. Neighbors remain involved in the ongoing maintenance of the park through the Friends of Halcyon Commons and recently celebrated the installation of a custom-designed bench to enhance the park.

The Creation of Halcyon Commons: A Chronology

June 1992 Halcyon Court and parking lot of 28 spaces closed to traffic for a Solstice Block Party. "Wouldn't it be nice to have a park here!" a number of folks say.

October 1992 At a community meeting on disaster preparedness, Halcyon Neigh borhood Association is born, and a meeting is scheduled about the park idea.

November 1992 A well- attended meeting focuses on the park idea. The Halcyon Commons Planning Com mittee is formed to solicit further neighborhood input. First issue of Halcyon Com munity News distributed.

December 1992 The first meeting of the Halcyon Commons Planning Committee, which drafts a questionnaire for neighbors concerning the possibility of creating a park and other neighborhood concerns. The Planning Com mittee meets regularly for the next three and a half years to guide the park planning process.

Winter 1993 Overwhelming response to questionnaire supporting the park; input from City staff solicited.

March 1993 First bands-on design workshop on the park. Neighbors come up with two possible plans. Input from Police Department and neighborhood research.

May 1993 Second design workshop on the park includes input from other groups involved with improving parks (fellow members of Berkeley Partners for Parks).

June 1993 Block Party with mock-up of park design (using houseplants to stand for trees and bushes, lawn furniture, and paint to mark the paths) held in the park ing lot, allowing everyone to visualize the design.

October 1993 Another Block Party with mock-up of park and park design plans for all to see and comment on. Twenty-one street trees planted by volunteers.

Fall 1993 Planning Committee members approach other community groups to ask for their support and begin to lobby City Council members on behalf of the park idea.

February 1994 Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously endorses Halcyon Commons project after a presentation including professional design drawings of the park, letters of support from twenty-eight community groups, and drawings from neighborhood children.

Spring 1994 Planning Committee members attend hearings on allocations for improvements in parks and lobby for funds for Halcyon Commons. Support secured from Whole Foods Market and Alta Bates Medical Center. Halcyon Commons is selected as one of twenty- four park projects recommended for funding by the Parks and Recreation Commission.

June 1994 With the council chambers filled with dozens of green balloons, the City Council unanimously approves funding for the park projects, including $109,000 for Halcyon.

Fall 1994 Planning Committee members meet with City staff to continue the planning process and work out the schedule for the project. Newsletter and meetings keep the neighbor hood well informed.

Winter 1995 City landscape architect Roger Ravenstad assigned to the project. He meets with planning committee members to finalize park design and discuss logistics. Volunteers help with site history research and testing for toxins. Design presented to the Commission on Disability, which unanimously endorses it. Plans underway for arbor and bulletin board.

Summer 1995 Contract out to bid on Halcyon Commons. Community volunteers join City crews in August to break ground and remove asphalt and base rock to bring project costs down after initial bids come in high.  Additional funds are raised from Alta Bates and Jeff and Kathryn Carleton to supplement City funding.

Fall 1995 City signs contract with Scott Parker, a land scape contractor who lives in the larger neighborhood. Concrete curbs are poured, and work begins. Grant for tree purchase received from California ReLeaf.

Winter 1996 Construction continues, with heavy winter rains slowing progress for long periods.

Spring 1996 Infrastructure completed. A long wait for the ground to dry enough to complete soil preparation. Community bulletin board and arbor are constructed by neighborhood volunteers with materials from HNA.

May 1996 In late May, eighty-five community volunteers, led by City of Berkeley gardeners, plant twenty-two trees and hundreds of shrubs and bushes.

June 1996 Volunteers lay sod. Loose ends completed.

July 21, 1996 The community celebrates the completion of Halcyon Commons and dedicates the park with speakers and music as part of a giant block party.