Amblin’ Alameda: What’s the Point?

Amblin’ Alameda: What’s the Point?

Morton Chalfy

I’m just back from the Gulf Coast of Florida and the grandchildren are wonderful, thanks for asking, film at 11. You have to see the one-year-old truckin’ along, pumping her arms and occasionally stopping to let out a squeal of pure glee at being able to motor on her own. That sound has definite rejuvenating properties and added at least a couple of years to my life.

Down the street from my son’s home is a public park, basketball court, tennis court, swings, climb-on-me structure, gazebo and shaded tables and benches. Very civilized. Usable public space, in the midst of a development of private houses, made as an amenity for the neighborhood. The kids love being able to walk or ride their bikes to it and can often find other neighborhood kids to play with.

I was thinking about that park while driving a visitor around Alameda Point last weekend when she asked, “Where are the parks going?” What a good question, and one that set me off thinking about the great parks of cities around the world. Every park, built on public property, is always presented as a “gift” to the populace, often by their rulers. The “gift” is often what defines the city - Central Park in New York, the major fountains of Rome, Kew Gardens in London and so on. The open space, the natural beauty, the atmosphere of civic pride that infuses these locations all go a long way to enhancing the appeal of the urban space.

As usual with public property, since we all own it, nobody owns it, so a park becomes a “gift” to the city when in truth it should be considered part of the public’s right to civilized living. But because nobody owns it the usual propositions come from developers who, naturally and rightly, calculate development on the basis of profit. Parks need a visionary who can see the space and see uses that enhance the joy of living in a place: a visionary who is in favor of the public use of public space. The rich, after all, can buy their own bits of beauty. But the public is dependent on our elected officials to see the need for recreational space and to see that it enhances the city and the value of the rest of the housing in it.

We in Alameda have a tremendous opportunity to provide lovely recreational areas on Alameda Point. Proximity to the water and the grand views of San Francisco and its bridges should be inspiring our city mothers and fathers to err on the side of beauty and provide the city with an amenity which, once lost, will never come again.

And so I ask with our visitor, “Where are the parks?”