The Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group had very special and memorable walk this week. Piedmont mayor Bob McBain had been reading about, and appreciating the group's walking exploration of Piedmont. and he knew there was one destination that group had never been to. is Tyson Lake and right In the backyard of Bob's Sotelo Avenue home. Tyson Lake is a secured, private property lake, and managed by the neighborhood Tyson Lake Property Owners Association. It is hidden behind homes Sotelo Avenue and only peak of it can be seen from the street. Bob generously offered to take the group to see this historical Piedmont destination.
The opportunity to go see Tyson Lake. little known to most Piedmonters. motivated a strong turnout of about 35 walkers Mayor McBain also brought his K-9 best friend Mac to enjoy the walk. Though chili and mac are often found on menus, the K9 Chili and Mac had to resolve some territorial issues before beginning the day's journey. The group was honored to also nave Chelle Putzer, Piedmont's new Recreation Director, on the walk. and to welcome first-time walker Christino Delgado, who was invited by Barry Gantt.
Meeting the group at the Exedra, Mayor McBain couldn't resist telling the walkers how important he feels Measure T is on the March ballot. It is a continuation of the existing city parcel tax that calls for the same payments residents have been making for a number of years to provide for city services. After he answered some questions, he and his K-9 best friend Mac led the group up Highland Avenue to Sheridan, Crocker, and Hampton Avenues to Sotelo Avenue. When the walkers arrived at his home. Bob pointed out that the beautiful residence across the street was once Dean Witter's summer home.
This stop was an opportunity to learn about the history of Tyson Lake from a past article in one of Gail Lombard's Piedmont Historical Society magazines. The group learned that James Tyson was a wealth lumber and ship- ping businessman who purchased 30 acres or and in 1914 on the east side or Sotelo Avenue north into Oakland where he built his "Oakmont" estate. The Tysons had three young sons and Tyson was a strong supporter of the recently created Piedmont Boy Scout Council. Tyson dammed small creek that ran through his property and created a reservoir that served as a swimming hole for his sons. In 1921 he made a portion of his land available to the. Scouts for an outdoor camp. where scouts earned swimming. lifesaving, and boating merit badges.
The campground is now the location of the Hampton Park sports field. In real estate ads, lots around the lake were advertised as having rights to the lake. Part of the history of Tyson Lake includes an incident in 1949 when four nude swimmers were arrested after they woke up a resident on Sotelo; they were fined $25 each.
More seriously and tragically, in 1951 a 17-year old boy drowned in the lake, and that was followed by a 19-year old who drowned in 1952. Piedmont Police said they were unable fence the lake because it was private property. A title search found that the lake was once owned by the Tyson Lake Property Owners Association, but it had been non-existent for years because its taxes hadn't been paid. Attorney Harry Price, who had purchased the Tyson house, reorganized the owners association, and it asked the City to help fund lake improvements, but the City declined. Finally, the owners spent $6,000 to lower the spillway by 10 feet and reduce the water content by half; and the lake's dam was declared safe on January 7, 1959.
Mayor McBain told of the ducks, birds, and other wildlife that make use of the lake. He then led the walkers through his backyard to a fence and a pathway down to the lake's edge.
The lake itself is larger than most of the walkers expected. Some walkers decided the view of the lake from above was better than a walk around it, but others followed the mayor on the perimeter of the entire lake. With their Tyson Lake tour complete, the walkers thanked Mayor McBain for sharing this unique and seldom seen Pied- mont destination with them; and they headed back to the Exedra For many, going to Tyson Lake was a memorable day.