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Heritage Trees and Sidney Dearing Family Walk

It was another wonderful weather Wednesday last week for 38 members of ourPiedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group and two of ourK-9 best friends when we assembled at the Exedra for our weekly walk.

The prior Wednesday we had gone to eight of the Piedmont Parks Department's current 19 "Heritage Trees.” There were three more of them to see on a walk to the west and southwest sides of town. All three are groves of Coast redwoods that are native to the fog belt from southwest Oregon to the central California coast. The Parks Department asks for new Heritage Tree nominations each March and we are thinking we may submit a candidate from our walks.

The morning’s last tree would be near a home where we could also considerSidney Dearing and his family, the first Black residents of Piedmont. It's a sad part of the city's history, but an important one to know, and especially appropriate to remember during February, Black History Month.

We headed out going down Magnolia Avenue past the high school. We were hoping to see construction on the new aquatics center. However, it didn’t seem that much was happened yet. We continued on to Jerome Avenue and went down it to the Jerome Triangle at Fairview Avenue. We found eight redwoods growing in a circle. It was said redwoods often grow this way because they are from the seeds of a mother tree in the center. It is a beautiful grove that car drivers usually fail to notice.

We continued in a long line down Oakland Avenue, passing a few, early, yellow daffodils along the way. It took two stop light cycles for all of us to cross Grand Avenue. As the first walkers waited up the street for the second group, they noticed an unusual tree near the curb. Its trunk is about five feet in diameter and there are green, spikey palms 10 to 15 feet above.No one knew what it was, and no one had noticed it on their countless car rides up and down Oakland Avenues. Rob Smith used a phone app to identify it as a Spineless Yucca, native to Central America.

We went across the Oakland Avenue Bridge to Sunnyside Avenue. On the opposite side of the street at the edge of the Linda Beach Park was a grove of four or five more Heritage Tree redwoods. We went down Sunnyside and enjoyed the different home styles as we walked. One house is particularly unique. It has a long curving brick front wall with a built-in brick bench in front of a home that was built in 1879. Rob Smith remembered from a previous walk that the home owner was in construction and obviously liked masonry.

At Grand Avenue we headed south looking for a safe place to cross the busy street. We found a crossing with flashing lights near Ace Hardware that warned drivers we were coming and going to hold up traffic for a while. We turned up Wildwood and went up to Nova Avenue and the Wildwood Triangle.

Before getting to the park that contains another 13 Coast redwoods, we stopped in front of the home that Sidney Dearing, a successfulAfrican-American café owner, and his family were driven from in 1924 by other Piedmont citizens. In May of that year, more than 500 people gathered in front of the home and refused to disperse until Dearing agreed to sell the house and leave Piedmont. Later, Dearing and his family moved back toOakland. The website provides the full, sad story. The good news for the group is that the current Piedmont City Council is exploring a tribute to Dearing.

Before we made our return to the Exedra, via a hike up Magnolia Avenue, we took a vote on which tree or trees from the morning’s walk we liked best.The vote was inconclusive, but the Spineless Yucca seemed to have the edge.


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