The City of Albany has asked for a community meeting to talk about the painting of the Tot Lot. This email includes the official letter along with some added history by me =)
Joanna Manqueros approached me a while back about making the Tot Lot look a bit nicer. She was upset that the front area was filled with sand, the fence looked bleak, garbage was strewn about and much of the park had been tagged with spray paint. I volunteered to help dig and water and she set about gathering plants.
Joanna spoke with the owners/managers of Westbrae Nursery, Trader Joe’s, Berkeley Horticultural Nursery and a number of other local establishments about donating plants and supplies for our guerilla gardening project. We started by planting up the front corner and eventually worked our way to all of the earth patches around the park. The Beck-Simon’s have kindly donated their hose and water.
The response has been so good that we are now planting up the public strips in front of any house who requests it. We have modified over a dozen houses and have plenty more scheduled as new plants come in. To date, Westbrea has donated 90% of the plants we have used.
We are so inspired that we are talking about BUFFing up blocks. Albany will remove concrete in the front strip of a house in order to plant trees. Anyone who is interesting doing this can contact Tony Wolcott or speak with Joanna or me.
As we proceeded to beautify the park (without City permission – sorry), we became increasingly upset with the spray paint. A number of nasty words were scrawled on the mail drop box, the steps and the concrete walls of the park. The fence was particularly glaring. Joanna and I decided to paint over the graffiti on the steps with some left over paint. While we were painting, a few children asked if they could help. It dawned on us that we could enlist the energy of the kids and actually paint the side wall with nice designs. We told the kids that if they wanted to paint they should come back that Saturday for a ‘painting party’. Over a dozen children showed up who were supervised by 5 adults.
While we were painting we talked about how great it would be if the designs were be temporary. Every 6 months or so the children who use the park could be given the chance to paint it in order to give them a sense of ownership. We want it to be ‘their park’. And while we originally wanted to just paint the areas with graffiti, the children quickly went ‘outside the lines’ and started on the steps and the fence.
We intentionally left a bit of sand on the steps to give them traction and the children agreed not to paint anything inside the park. Universally, the children who have been part of this process love what they have done. Many have begun to work on the artwork they want to paint at our next session.
I think that it is great that the City wants to hold a meeting to discuss the Tot Lot. I am willing to help the City in any way that I can to make the park a place where are children can play safely. I encourage everyone who is interested to come to the meeting on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
Below is an electronic copy of the letter that was mailed to the folks who live near the park.
Dear Community Members,
City staff was recently made aware that the Dartmouth Tot Lot has been painted. It brought to our attention that there may not be an understanding in the community about how such activity needs to be part of a City process.
Volunteer work to help improve the appearance of city facilities is a wonderful contribution that residents can provide to their community. However, because they are publicly owned, there are steps involved in making such improvements. When staff or residents want to change or improve a park in any way, the typical steps include placing the matter on an agenda at a public meeting to provide a forum for comment.
In addition to community input about appearance of facilities such as the tot lot, there are other regulations and issues that the City needs to consider when improvements are made. For instance, to protect water quality in the bay and comply with storm water regulations, only certain types of paints should be applied for outdoor painting projects. Also, painting steps without the proper paint can lead to a slippery service when wet.
To provide an opportunity for the community to weigh in about the Dartmouth Tot Lot painting, and to consider any follow up action, the Parks & Recreation Commission will discuss the tot lot painting at its meeting of Thursday, October 14, 2010, which begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Albany Community Center/Library, 1249 Marin Avenue. As part of this agenda item, the Commission will discuss the safety concerns mentioned in this letter, whether or not to remove the paint or repaint, as well as the proper procedures for park improvements.
If you are unable to attend the meeting and wish to make a comment, and/or if you have any information that would help us understand the paint materials or other aspects of the project, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Park and Recreation Commission looks forward to meeting with you. Sincerely,
City of Albany
Recreation & Community Services Director