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Walking Witter

There was a large turnout of 53 walkers and three K-9 best friends at the Exedra this Wednesday for our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays weekly walk.

The week before, Pete P, Piedmont school's Director of Facilities and Construction Manager, had given us a tour of Havens School's Ellen Driscoll Playhouse and its historic ceiling. Pete mentioned the work that he is supervising on the high school's Witter Field. It's a project that began on June 6th to replace the turf and irrigation system.

This is a major, overdue project. It requires the removal of the over 15 year old turf, excavation of the field and drainage trenches, installing a new drainage trench drain surrounding the entire field, and providing a new turf surface. Hundreds of trucks will go in and out of the Winsor Avenue

gate from the field.

The bulk of the project is about the underground drainage. It will require a large, probably 10-inch diameter storm drain that will redirect storm water directly into Bushy Dell Creek. Currently storm drainage from the high school and middle school runs down P.E. Hill, hits the Witter Field park lot, and goes directly under the field. During heavy rains this sometimes creates "Lake Witter."

In 2007 when the old turf was installed and still under warranty, it cost $219,000 and was installed in two weeks. The current project will cost over $4,150,000 and hopefully will be finished by December. Funding for this project is not expected to come from PUSD's General Fund. Rather, State Modernization Funds, that are tied to the City's H1 bond and paid for the new PHS theater and STEAM building, will come from the State Office of Public School Construction and Division of the State Architect.

The construction will require PHS teams to use different facilities for their practices and games this fall. The football teams will practice at Laney College in Oakland and have all road games. It will also affect residential parking on El Cerrito, Winsor, and Park View Avenues, as well as Palm Drive.

The construction work is underway, and there is no public access to Witter Field. However, we could get a view of the construction from the bottom of El Cerrito Avenue. We could also see how the work is affecting the neighborhood by walking the surrounding streets.

We headed out going down Magnolia Avenue, past the high school and construction work being done for the new swimming pool. The earth moving is done and work on retaining walls has started. We peeked through holes in the fence to see the progress. Then we continued on to the top of El Cerrito Avenue, and we descended its steep hill and looked out at the field below. The turf has been removed and initial ground work has been completed. It is impressive and we took a group photo there.

As we were leaving, Pete P drove up and we told Pete we liked what we saw. We went back to Jerome Avenue and continued to Magnolia. We resumed going down, but couldn't resist taking a short side trip up and down the three-home Larmer Court cul-de-sac.

Then it was on to Park View Avenue and Winsor Avenue. A friendly flagman was controlling the traffic and trucks coming and going, but he let us walk up to the gate below Wildwood School's lower playground. Karin F's home is right there and she pointed out two holes in a cement walk below the playfield. Karin said during heavy rains water shoots out of them like they were firehoses. She also said that when Witter's turf removal was in full swing up to 22 trucks a day made trips to Alameda County's contracted dump in Tracy.

We retraced our steps back to Palm Drive and went down it to Wildwood Avenue with NO PARKING signs all along the way. We went up Wildwood, past Wildwood School to the Piedmont Park entrance, and had a lovely walk up its lower path to the top of the park. A path along its top took us to steps that returned us for an on-time, noon arrival at the Exedra.


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