EL CERRITO -- With sidewalk rain gardens and an award-winning recycling center already under its belt, the city is working on adding environmentally friendly upgrades to its infrastructure and a group of about 30 interested residents joined city staff and consultants Aug. 2 to concentrate on four areas for potential improvement.
The meeting yielded dozens of ideas about what to do with Fairmont Park along the Ohlone Greenway, the Hillside Natural Area, the area around Fairmount Avenue immediately south of San Pablo Avenue, and routes between San Francisco Bay and open space in the East Bay hills. Community Development Director Melanie Mintz said the staff has identified the sites as starting points for developing the city's Urban Greening Master Plan if the city can obtain funding to carry them out.
Forum participants agreed that Fairmont Park, at the intersection of Eureka Avenue and Liberty Street, is an underused area of open space that is now home to an informal community garden.
They came to a consensus that they'd like to see a permanent community garden and native plantings at the site, along with an irrigation system and a system to catch rainwater for irrigation.
The garden could be linked to a teaching garden at the adjacent Fairmont Elementary School and the garden at the El Cerrito Senior Center at the north end of the park.
Participants also envisioned a space for a legal off-leash dog park, an improved connection to the Ohlone Greenway, the path of open space that follows the BART tracks through the city, and new play structures for children.
Although forum participants agreed that the Hillside Natural Area should remain mostly undeveloped, there was accord on the idea that its trails need to be improved.
Residents agreed that creeks within the natural area need to be maintained and invasive plant species need to be removed on a regular basis.
"People like the existing informal quality of the area, without a lot of signage," said Parks and Recreation Commission member Gary Hill. "They want it to be low impact, not like Tilden (Park) and Golden Gate Park."
Lower Fairmount Avenue, which is closed off on Wednesday evenings between San Pablo Avenue and Carlson Boulevard for the Off the Grid food truck events, could be the site of pedestrian-oriented businesses, such as a beer garden.
A parcel on the south side of Fairmount has been offered for sale to the city according to Makul Malhotra of MIG in Berkeley, the consultants to the city on the Urban Greening Plan.
"The land could be turned into a promenade, a gathering place for pedestrians," Malhotra said.
Residents also discussed developing what city staff calls a "Blue-Green Connection," clearly marked routes from the Bay to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park and Tilden Regional Park in the hills.
Moeser Lane and Potrero and Fairmount avenues partially link the two areas, but several residents suggested identifying other routes with less traffic and finding creative ways to mark the routes so that they can be followed easily by pedestrians and bicyclists.