Halcyon Neighborhood Association (HNA) has been awarded a UC Chancellor's Community Partnership grant for a three-part Halcyon Commons Rejuvenation Project (Project). The Project was conceived on occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the park's dramatic establishment in the summer of 1996, following four years of community organizing. Halcyon Commons is one of the first neighborhood-designed and implemented parks in the city's history. It is also the only public park serving the entire quadrant of South Berkeley bordered by Telegraph, Ashby, Adeline, and Woolsey (this neighborhood includes over 1,000 households). Halcyon Commons is a testament to the power of partnership in its establishment, in its design and the crafting of its features, and in the planting of its landscape (85 community volunteers came together to plant shrubs and trees and lay sod where there was once a parking lot). As a result, it is a much-used and beloved park. HNA, which guided the creation of this park, continues to this day to help maintain it by sponsoring five to six work parties annually, as well as hosting various community events in the park. However, there are many new residents in the neighborhood who were not involved in its initial creation; the Rejuvenation Project allows them the opportunity for direct participation in the design and implementation of three new features, giving a new sense of ownership to help foster responsible stewardship of the park for its next ten years.
In keeping with the park's user-development tradition, the three parts of the proposed Rejuvenation Project would involve significant community participation in planning, design, and implementation. This innovative approach means that, aside from the 5 percent administrative fee withheld by our fiscal sponsor (the nonprofit Berkeley Partners for Parks), all grant funds will go directly to installation of the new features.
The three-part Rejuvenation Project will allow those neighbors who participate for the first time a chance to feel connected with what HNA created ten years ago; it will renew and inspire those of us who worked so hard in the original creation of the commons; and it will forge new relationships for the future, both with UC partners and with community partners. The three proposed improvements (the first two, "A" and "B" having been funded directly in this grant cycle), are:
(A) A Gateway at the North Entrance to be forged by craftsperson Amy Blackstone (who created the wrought-iron decorative gates to the Peralta Community Garden in North Berkeley and the Art Tech building in downtown Berkeley, and who is giving us a significant donation of her labor to keep costs down). This will comprise a pergola/arbor-style entry with the words HALCYON COMMONS and animal cutouts to be designed with community workshop input. There is currently no sign letting people know they are entering Halcyon Commons at this most used entryway to the park, so this project will help anchor a sense of place, as well as honoring the animal, bird, and insect life that shares this green space, including animals with special ties to the park (such as Emma, the neighborhood dog who was present throughout the park's planning process, the bees that swarmed in the park and were relocated to a nearby neighbor's yard, and the barn owl neighbors are hoping to encourage to nest in a nearby palm tree).
(B) Redesign of the Southeastern Corner of the park through a new landscape plan and planting, with the inclusion of either large, flat boulders esthetically arranged that serve the dual function as sitting areas, or possibly a rustic bench (final decision pending community input), along with the completion of the irrigation system, and attractive, drought-resistant plantings. We are intending that this feature be designed at a hands-on community design charrette under the guidance of John Steere, Project Manager, and Michael Lamb, the neighbor and registered landscape architect who drew up the initial plans for the park based on community design workshops, resulting in an award-winning design (honored by Berkeley Design Advocates in 1997). This feature will allow neighbors, UC students (a couple of whom are already committed), and other community partners to participate in many ways, from the design process through the "sweat equity" involved in installing the landscaping features and planting the plants.
(C) Halcyon Bird Sculpture (a halcyon bird is a kind of kingfisher) originally planned ten years ago for the oval in front of the "Father Sun" bench in the park's southwestern corner. The sculpture will be cast in bronze, and will be sculpted by local artist Christina Bertea, in collaboration with John Steere. It will be approximately three feet long and two feet high and sit on a pedestal in the middle of the existing planted oval. The bird will be shown on a nest, representing peaceful coexistence. The details will be worked out by the artists with additional input from a community design charrette.