Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group had to shorten our walk the week before this past Wednesday to attend Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers' safety presentation at the Recreation Department's Seniors group meeting. So this Wednesday, 36 walkers, but no K-9 best friends, were ready to make up for it. It was cool and cloudy, perfect for a long walk. Each year we try to walk all the streets in Piedmont. It had been some time since we walked Crest Road, which is off of Hampton Road just past Hampton Park. Crest is a long, slow climb. It is not easy, but anyone who wanted a shorter walk could return to the city center at Hampton Park. That was the plan for the morning. We went up Highland, Sheridan, and Wildwood Avenues, through the Hall Fenway to Crocker Avenue, to Hampton Road and Hampton Park. The park is part of 50 acres that were purchased in 1911 by Louis Titus, a Berkeley real estate developer. He intended to build a mansion, but the new City of Piedmont raised property taxes dramatically in 1912. Titus dropped his plans and left town. In 1914 James Tyson, a lumber and shipping businessman bought 30 acres of the land for his home. He was a strong supporter of Piedmont Boy Scouts, which began in 1910, and in 1921 Tyson made the land that is now Hampton Park available to the scouts for an outdoor camp. During the Great Depression in 1938 the Tysons also make the land available to the Piedmont schools. A WPA project leveled the land, which was intended to be the site of a future "East Piedmont" school. However, it was never built. In the 1950s and 60s the space was a dusty, sometimes muddy little league baseball field. Later, youth soccer was played there often on a soggy field, as underground water was an on-going problem. In 2000 the Piedmont Play School was moved to the park, and its building was constructed at the back of the park. Dramatic improvements were made to the park during 2017 in a $2 million public/private partnership. Drainage and artificial turf were installed that made the field much more serviceable during the year. The steps at the entrance to the park provided tiers for us to sit on, and pose for a group photo. Then some walkers headed back to the Exedra while the rest of us crossed La Salle Avenue, passed through the two old, white columns that marked the main entrance to the 1920s St. James Woods real estate development. We walked a steep block on the development's brown tile inlay sidewalk to the foot of Crest Road where information from a Google search was shared. It said this neighborhood is governed by a St. James Wood Homes Association that was founded in 1926 and represents over 185 homes in Piedmont and Oakland. The CC&R's require board approval of changes to homes' color scheme changes and when owners want to remove trees. They must also seek approval to changes in the location or height of structures, including walls and fences. The annual dues are supposed to be $25 a year, but the last annual meeting was in 2012. Phil Witte, who lives on St. James Drive, said he knew nothing of all of this. Phil seems to be behind on his dues. It was then time to start the ascent of Crest. We appreciated many homes' landscaping and a lovely home's steep slate roof. We continued our climb on Somerset Road, and looked for a hidden path between two homes that was on maps and said would take us down to Huntleigh Road. However, the path seems to have been swallowed up by a yard, and no long exists. The hillsides showed signs of recent slides and some homes are on steep slopes with one on stilts. We crossed over the Oakland/Piedmont city line twice before emerging on Estates Drive with a cloudy view of San Francisco in the distance. Going down Estates to the top of Hampton Road started our decent and return to the Exedra. It was a longer than usual almost four mile walk with a climb that more than made up for the fewer steps of our short walk the week before, but also one everyone seemed to enjoy.
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