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“Goldilocks” walk in the park

The Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group assembled again last Wednesday for a “Goldilocks” walk in the park. The morning overcast had the temperature “not too hot and not too cold.” It was just right for the group’s second walk of Piedmont streets since the activity was restarted this month. It had been put on hold for over a year because of the pandemic.

The Recreation Department has established a new set of walk safety protocols that require activity registration; as well as social distancing, masks, limited physical contact, and small size groups during the walks. Twenty two walkers had registered for the activity as of last Wednesday and ten were on hand for the day’s walk.

The weather was good and the group decided on a destination and surrounding area that were just as enjoyable. Over the years Dracena Park has become one of Piedmont’s best recreational spots because of the City and Piedmont Beautification Foundation’s work and investment. This is an eight-acre park that is woven into the surrounding neighborhood. Its boundaries are Dracena, Blair, El Cerrito, Artuna Avenues and Park Way.

The site was a rock quarry in the early twentieth century that supplied material for local streets and other construction. The area has been transformed since then into this beautiful park. The City recently reworked the park’s upper grass area, and about two years ago the walkers were “sidewalk superintends” for the removal in the rain of a set of huge eucalyptus trees that threatened the nearby homes. The walkers agreed it was time for a return visit to Dracena Park and the streets around it.

The walkers set off going down Magnolia Avenue past Piedmont High School. They admired the completed, new STEAM building and the construction going on for the school’s new auditorium and offices. Some stories were told by walkers about the original, classically designed Piedmont High School that was built in 1921 and the less attractive buildings that replaced it in the 1970s, which were largely demolished recently in order to build the new structures.

The group then went up Hillside Avenue, across Oakland Avenue to Blair Avenue, and down Blair to Dracena Avenue, passing lovely homes and front yards along the way. Rhododendrons had started to explode with color and the beautiful white dogwood flowers were still in bloom. The walkers entered the park at Dracena Avenue and walked over to the new, large lawn at the top of the park. They stopped there for the attached group photo.

The group walked down the dog run path shaded by redwood trees past Storyteller Bridge that was rebuilt in 2014 as Cole Becker’s Boy Scout Eagle project. They came to the popular children’s playground at the park’s base with its climbing wall, cement slide, and play structure. Little people were enjoying them and also chasing soap bubbles on the nearby lawn. The group walked the loop behind the play area and could see remnants of the quarry rocks that were once the park’s product. The walkers emerged on to Artuna Avenue and Ricardo Avenue. They went up Ricardo to Arroyo Avenue, down it to York Drive, all the way to Cambridge Way, and up it to Latham Street. It was noted that Latham is the only “street” in Piedmont because it is Piedmont’s only roadway with “street” in its name. All the others are “avenues,” “drives,” “ways,” “places,” and such.

The walkers went up Latham and noted a long, narrow home that was built in the 1950s on land that was made available when the Key System train line closed and sold its right-of-way land for house development. The group crossed Oakland Avenue and went up it to San Carlos Avenue where they walked up and down its upper and lower separate streets back to Oakland Avenue then up its steep hill to El Cerrito Avenue.

On El Cerrito Dick Carter pointed out his childhood home and a classic Piedmont sycamore tree in front that has a noticeably wider trunk that the surrounding trees. Dick told the group this tree’s trunk is much larger than the others because his father watered the grass car strip in front of their home constantly during his over 50 years living there. The walkers went down El Cerrito to Magnolia Avenue and back up it to the Exedra with additional personal and local history stories being told along the way.

The approximately 90 minute, three-mile walk had made for a “Goldilocks” morning with a beautiful park; and great streets, sites, stories, and friends. Everyone agreed it had been just right.


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