Adiverse group of 150-200 volunteers and city employees came together on Friday to build a new playground at Burckhalter Park on Edwards Avenue. Morgan Stanley brokerage not only put up a lot of money to make this happen, but sent out about 45 volunteers to help build it. I heard about the project through councilmember Desley Brooks' office, but while I was there I ran into people I know via other Oakland connections including College Avenue Presbyterian, the Oakland Fire Department, and Oakland Urban Paths.
It was great weather for the build (though maybe a bit too warm for those working in full sun), and it was a festive event, with a DJ playing music, lunch for the participants, and a lively camaraderie between different groups working on different parts of the project. While the playground structure was getting a lot of the attention, volunteers were also putting in new plantings, cleaning up the park, constructing picnic tables and benches, and even creating a casual outdoor classroom area.
I talked with Clinton Pugh, who is the park supervisor (and grew up nearby), and he was excited not just about the work being done on Friday, but the longer-term potential of getting the community more involved in taking care of parks in East Oakland. I also talked with Alameda County Community Food Bank executive director Susan Bateson, who told me about some of the other work that Morgan Stanley is helping fund, a mobile food pantry to help cover the needs of school children through the summer months. According to the story on ABC 7 News, it's all part of a larger "Healthy Cities" initiative that Morgan Stanley is sponsoring. They're also partnering with La Clinica de la Raza to provide health screenings for children.
I was too busy with work to stay long, but I really wish I could have been there all day. A big thank you to everyone who helped make this happen, including KaBOOM! who brought their playground expertise (and a lot of workers, too, I think). And an extra special thank you to the volunteers (hi, Nancy!) who did tons of prep work in the days and weeks leading up to the event.
If you're the curious sort like me and wondering about the name "Burckhalter", I don't yet know why the park name is usually spelled 'Burkhalter' but the tennis courts, nearby elementary school and Burckhalter Avenue are spelled 'Burckhalter'. But the school (and doubtless the other sites) are named for astronomer Charles Burckhalter. He was a teacher at the original Oakland High School, and the director of the Chabot Observatory for 38 years, overseeing its initial growth and move to Mountain Blvd. in Leona Heights. He also invented an apparatus to help take better pictures of solar eclipses, and plumbed the depths of Lake Tahoe (with a champagne bottle) to determine its 1,645 foot depth, a measurement later confirmed by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.