On recent, cool mornings the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays walking group has tended to assemble in the sunshine to the left of the Exedra; but this past Wednesday a return to the shade at front of the Exedra seemed in order. It was warm, and the forecast was for warmer temperatures. It was going to be “Piedmont hot” on the following day. However, the weather was not yet a major issue for the 28 walkers and one K-9 best friend who were on hand.
However, before anything got going, Lois Price had an announcement. It was “National Walking Day!” This recognition was started in 2007 by the American Heart Association and is the first April Wednesday of every year. It was also “National Library Week,” and “National Walking Month” is every May. Unfortunately, the walkers were not aware of “National Beer Day,” which came and went on last Thursday, but they will get a second chance to celebrate with “National Drink Beer Day” on September 28th, which just happens to be a Wednesday this year.
The group was also reminded that on April 20th and 27th Hope Salzer will take the walkers on two sneak preview tours of two Piedmont gardens that are part of the 18th Annual “Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour and Green Home Features Showcase.” And after that, on May 4th, former Piedmont mayor Bob McBain will host the walkers on a visit to Tyson Lake at the back of his Sotelo Avenue home.
With the weather on the warm side and forecast for it to get warmer, it was thought that it would be good to avoid a long walk with lots of climbing. Going through the center of town to Coaches Field off Moraga Avenue was a level, relatively short walk, and it was selected as the morning’s primary destination. A key to the lock on the gate of the nearby Kennelly Skate Park had been obtained, so the group could go see it too.
Off the walkers went down Highland Avenue. To keep the group refreshed on their Piedmont history, they were reminded that Walter Blair, the first European settler on the area in 1852, had originally named this road “Vernal Avenue” because it was so lush with vegetation. When the group got to the end of Highland/Vernal Avenue, at the stoplight with Moraga Avenue, more of Blair’s history from Piedmont Historical Society's research was shared. This included the fact that, right across the street on Moraga, was the spot where the entrance to Blair Park was in 1884. This was Blair’s large, picnic park attraction that generated ridership for his Piedmont Railway horsecars.
The walkers crossed Moraga and made their way up the street passing homes that were built in the in the late 1910s and early 1920s after Blair died in 1888 and the park was abandoned in 1901. The group walked over the impressive boardwalk along Moraga that spans the edge of the canyon below, and serves as a sidewalk to Coaches Field. In the parking lot in front of the field more of the area’s history was shared. This was once Piedmont’s land fill before the canyon of what is now the Coaches Field site was filled. The park was first dedicated in 1994; and in 2001, with the support of Piedmont native and Otis Spunkmeyer muffins founder Ken (Bebe) Rawlings, the sports field was created. It honors the many Piedmont coaches who have worked with the city’s youth. A copy of the City Council-approved Coaches Field Expansion Concept Plan map was also shared with the walkers. The project is unfunded, but is what the City would like to do with the field someday.
The next destination was the William F. Kennelly Skate Park, just beyond the short softball left field and up a hill. A Recreation Department-provided key unlocked the padlock on the park’s gate and the walkers climbed up the stairs. At the top of the hill, with some trepidation for those with acrophobia, they admired the deep bowls that much younger people fearlessly skate up and down. The group had no interest in trying to do the same. However, most of the walkers did manage to descend some stairs that led them into one of the bowls for a group photo.
The bowls are impressive, and a little scary, but the walkers enjoyed them, as well as a peak view of San Francisco and the Salesforce Tower in the distance. The group made their way back down the stairs and along the path behind the playfield to the parking lot and then Moraga Avenue. On the way back Moraga they admired front yards, one that had an orchid plant that was about as big as a mid-sized Christmas tree, as well as beautiful bougainvillea and wisteria flowers.
It was thought that on the way back on Highland/Vernal the group might take a side trip up Blair Avenue to see Hardwick Avenue and Langdon Court, two streets they had not walked this year. However, it was getting close to their noon return target time, and a little warmer; so these streets were postponed until another Wednesday. No one seemed disappointed. The group had enjoyed an approximately two mile walk with some fun and history, and it was still not too hot.