On Sunday, June 9, Oaklanders will have the chance see Lake Merritt from a new perspective. “Love Our Lake Day celebrates our lake, the crown jewel of Oakland,” said Jonathan Bair, President of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland’s (WOBO) Board of Directors.  “What you are going to see and smell is very different if you haven’t been there in a couple of years,” said Karen Hester, Event Coordinator for Oaklavia. “It always was beautiful, but now it feels like it’s so user friendly for pedestrians and cyclists and kids.”

“The reason we are celebrating right now is that the biggest chunk of money [from Measure DD] – about $48 million – has gone into the lake,” said Naomi Schiff, a member of the Measure DD Community Coalition and a Board Member of the Oakland Heritage Alliance. “What we’re getting out of it is spectacular.”

Schiff is referring to a major facelift at the lake, thanks to funding from Measure DD, a bond measure approved by Oakland voters in 2002.   Measure DD funds have allowed Oakland to change 12th Street (now renamed Lake Merritt Boulevard) from 12 lanes to six and use the extra land to expand green space and create a new pedestrian bridge.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUpEXD1-e-M?feature=player_detailpage Time lapse video of Lake Merritt Boulevard (Jan 2011-Nov 2012) by Erik Niemann

“This is a real symbol of Oakland investing in itself,” said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

During Love Our Lake Day, Hester noted, “We’re going to have about 50 different activities that are going to completely encircle the lake both on land and water.”  There will be half price boat rentals, $5 gondola rides and free bicycle rentals.

“Any way that you want to traverse the lake is going to be available to you,” said Hester.   People can salsa by the lake, listen to live music and visit local food trucks. “We’re piggybacking on some of the activities that happen almost any Sunday by the lake.”

Bair described the Oaklavia portion of the event as “a chance to see what a street can be when it’s not open solely to cars.”  Three miles of city streets around the lake will be opened to bicyclists, walkers, skaters and other human-powered recreation.

Hester, who coordinated Oakland’s first Oaklavia for WOBO in 2010, believes “this is going to be one of the signature events when we look back at the history of walking and biking in Oakland.  It’s a watershed moment for the community.”

Lake Merritt was the first wildlife refuge in the US, but it hasn’t always seemed like one.  Mayor Quan recalls a former, trashier incarnation of the lake, noting,  “Lake Merritt was one of my inspirations for banning Styrofoam.”

“I grew up in Oakland and I remember the lake being a big stagnant pond,” said Bair. “Thanks to the removal of the 12th street dam, it is now a flowing waterway, part of the bay.”  He relishes seeing the tides come and go each day.

Restored marsh areas and improved water quality are two benefits of the restoration.  “It will be more welcoming for the birds,” said Schiff.   “They need it.  As the area densifies, they have fewer places to go.”

Love Our Lake Day is a chance to celebrate one of the treasures that make Oakland a world-class city. “I’m really hoping that people will come out and love the lake and get a thank you for voting to make the investment,” said Mayor Quan.

 

There is much more to know about Love Our Lake Day: visit Oaklavia.org and read more.

One Response

  1. Jarvis Moore

    May 31st I happened to walk home from Lake Merrit Bart. It was about 7:30/8:00pm. I walked along Oak toward the Lake. As I walked near the Henry J. Kaiser end of the Lake I was pleasantly surprised. The new landscaped improvements looked fantastic! As I walked around towards Lake Merrit Bakery, I had to stop and take pictures of the spectacular lighting! It was a real nice evening and the backdrop of the lighting along the lake was really breathe taking. I cant wait to make use of this greatly improved area! Job well done!

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