When Oakland was under development, most of its creeks were seen as nuisances to be diverted into culverts and buried underground. In the last half of the 20th century, Oaklanders started to realize that preserving the creeks was a way to protect natural diversity as well as enhance our neighborhoods.
Hundreds of residents will turn out for Creek to Bay Day on the third Saturday of September — Sept. 15 this year — cleaning up trash, pulling invasive weeds and planting natives along the city’s creeks. On the list of work sites are some parks so small, they may have escaped notice of anyone not living in the area.
Glen Echo Park, for example, is less than two blocks long, straddling Monte Vista Avenue just east of Piedmont Avenue. To the north, it’s a well-maintained grove of natives with a few rough-hewn stones that could serve as stools for watching the creek. To the south, the park narrows still further to just a trail under some young redwoods.
Another section of Glen Echo Creek is open just a few blocks away, but to reach it, you’ll have to return to Piedmont Avenue, cross MacArthur Boulevard, and jog left one short block to Richmond Boulevard. Oak Glen Park is a wide median of laurel and oak trees that actually passes under Interstate 580. Unfortunately, there is no way to actually walk through most of the park — the exception being a wood-chip lot under the freeway that serves as an unfenced dog park, and a surprisingly lovely pergola and concrete bridge at Croxton Avenue that allow you to linger over the creek. This park may seem more lush than Glen Echo, but that’s because invasive vines are choking out the natives. One hopes volunteers will be taking care of that in a week.
The walk between Glen Echo and Oak Glen gets a B- for esthetics — the lower end of Piedmont, which passes the Kaiser Hospital garage, is interesting, but not particularly attractive. If you want a prettier walk, follow Monte Vista uphill from Glen Echo, past some lovely, large Victorian and Mediterranean houses and some architecturally undistinguished modern apartment buildings. A block past the crest of the hill, you’ll find the Morcom Rose Garden, which is now in full bloom.
Getting there: Glen Echo Park is at Piedmont and Monte Vista Avenues. Oak Glen Park is on Richmond Boulevard between Warren and Randwick Avenues. Piedmont Avenue is well-served by public transit.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: Want a hot soak, a sauna or a massage? Piedmont Springs is nearby. You also can get an ice cream cone from Fenton’s Creamery (made famous by the movie “Up”) or dine with the carnivores at Bay Wolf, home of the prix fixe “whole hog” dinner.
More information: About Glen Echo Creek and the parks is available from the Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League.