Ohlone Greenway Commons

Ohlone Greenway Commons News - December '02

Three new public art installations and a native plant restoration are being viewed daily along the Ohlone Greenway. The exhibit uses art installations, interpretive signs, and a coastal prairie habitat project to tell the many-layered stories of the place and its inhabitants in a lively and engaging manner.

Inspired by the success in building the Peralta, Northside, and Karl Linn community gardens, a grassroots team of neighbors and volunteer professionals began a collaborative effort to transform the Westbrae section of the Ohlone Greenway. The narrow pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare is gradually becoming a linear neighborhood commons by providing opportunities for neighbors and visitors to socialize around the art installations and outdoor seating areas.

The first installation, the Peralta Gateway, a columnar adobe-like structure with curved roof made of red clay tiles, commemorates and displays information about the family of Luis Peralta, holder of the land grant for most of Berkeley and Oakland during the Californiano-Hispanic period. The adobe hacienda of one of Peralta's four sons, Domingo Peralta, was the first permanent building in Berkeley, built on what is now nearby Albina Street. Colorful, hand-painted tiles depicting Californiano motifs were made by children at the Youth Artists' Workspace, under the direction of Jennifer Burke, and embedded in a bench attached to the structure.

Further down the Greenway at the Northside Street cul-de-sac, under the shade of ornamental pear trees, is the second installation, which commemorates the agricultural period. Four steel silhouettes of cows with distinctive personalities, created by artist Amy Blackstone, graze in the background of the exhibit while visitors rest on resilient old metal tractor seats.

At the Nielsen Street cul-de-sac, just south of Gilman Street, a 72-foot-long mural has been painted on cement board mounted on the concrete wall that supports the BART rails. The mural, painted by artist Alan Leon in collaboration with other local artists, including Dan Fontes, depicts the evolution of transportation systems along the greenway and the migrations of people that they brought to the Westbrae neighborhood. Titled "From Elk Tracks to BART Tracks," the mural, a timeline that portrays the pre-settlement period and extends through the native-American, Spanish, Gold Rush, Victorian, street car-suburban, pre- and post-World War II periods, and the contemporary era with BART, has received enthusiastic responses from passers-by.