When it was decided to do a special issue of the Bay Times about Earth Day, Nancy Carleton, our Person of the Week, immediately came to mind. She co-founded Berkeley Partners for Parks and served as Vice Chair of the Berkeley Parks &Recreation Commission, among other positions. One of her greatest achievements was to help create a beautiful community park. The both literal and figurative grass roots effort should inspire all of us to dream big, work hard, and collaborate with others for the betterment of our neighborhoods. Here Carleton shares with the Bay Times what happened:
â€śIâ€™ve been an activist since I was 13, but of all the causes Iâ€™ve worked on, none brings greater satisfaction than the small park we created in my South Berkeley neighborhood where there was once a 28-car parking lot.
When my partner and I moved into our duplex on Halcyon Court 22 years ago, what had been a turnabout for a short-lived streetcar line was then a stretch of alienating asphalt. At a block party in 1992, neighbors conceived the idea of creating a permanent greenspace on the site. As one of the leaders of the effort to create Halcyon Commonsâ€”our community-designed parkâ€”I attended dozens of meetings to organize neighbors and obtain city approval.
Following a four-year process, Halcyon Commons was built in 1996, as neighbors helped remove asphalt, plant trees and flowering bushes, and lay sod. In the 16 years since, weâ€™ve held five work parties a year to keep the park welcoming for humans and wildlife. Neighbors coming together to create and maintain Halcyon Commons not only brought beauty to a harsh streetscape but also gave birth to Halcyon Neighborhoodâ€”a new identity for a previously fragmented area.
Creating change can sometimes seem daunting. I recommend getting involved where you live and bringing more green to our cities: plant a tree, start a vegetable garden, grow some butterfly- or bee-friendly plants in balcony pots or your yard. In the process, youâ€™ll get to know your neighbors and become more effective at whatever other activism you undertake.â€ť