Shenanigans on the Boulevard

by A Creek Runs Through It: Preserving Peralta Creek

By Dennis Evanosky

Peralta Creek is part of the intricate and delicate ecological system that the Oakland Museum of California calls the "East Creek Watershed." The museum has always been my first point of reference on the subject of local creeks because it has published a map that defines East Bay creeks and their watersheds.

Of all the creeks, Peralta Creek played perhaps the most important role in our early history. Luis Maria Peralta divided his retirement nest egg of 44,800 acres among his three sons. Antonio Maria got the middle portion and chose to settle along Peralta Creek right here in our neighborhood.

The creek draws its energy from three sources in the Oakland hills. The first lies in a valley between Crane Way and Butters Drive. The second begins just above Highway 13 near Woodminster Lane. This source flows under the highway and appears above ground below Maiden Lane.

Just downstream, a third creek that begins near the Terrace Avenue playground adds its energy to a stream that now has enough vitality to cut a small, but beautiful valley through the hills along Rettig Avenue above Wisconsin Street.

Time, energy, and money have already gone into preserving and restoring other parts of Peralta Creek. The Butters Land Trust has worked to preserve the creek's integrity near its headwaters. The City of Oakland joined forces with the state Department of Water Resources, the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, the Urban Creeks Council, and the Unity Council to restore the creek at C?sar Ch?vez Park near the Peralta family homestead.

Very little of the city's energy has gone into preserving this small triangle of land bounded by Rettig Avenue, Rettig Place, and Wisconsin Avenue, however. "City and/or county employees once maintained this corner site once a year; sometimes twice," one of the neighbors who lives along the creek told me.

About 10 years ago, Rettig Avenue residents begin conducting cleanup days at the site on a regular basis. Some reached into their own pockets to pay for the rental of necessary tools; others donated mulch for the site. One resident began seeding the area with wildflowers and set aside his own materials to improve and maintain the site.

So the question arises: Just whose property is this, anyway? I was not surprised at the answer another neighbor provided in the form of a map. Written in clear lettering on the map are the words "City Park"; not "City Property" but "City Park."

Happily, there are neighbors who care about this cameo that nature has carved into our neighborhood landscape. Last year, Rettig Avenue residents and other community members formed Friends of Peralta Creek and formally hosted an Earth Day cleanup.

Last month another group of residents worked to bag cut fennel and broom plants, pick up litter, and try to clear pampas and jubata grass, which has spread widely across both sides of the creek.

A coalition of residents from both neighborhoods, including their neighborhood associations, hopes to adopt the city-owned property. After consulting with the veteran Friends of Peralta Creek, the Laurel Village hopes to submit a formal application to the city's Adopt-A-Creek as a strategy to restore and maintain the area.

Their efforts may result in more city attention. With or without the city, Peralta Creek will bebetter off for their efforts.