My children and I first discovered Knowland Park in the spring of 2009 when they were six, nine, and eleven. They were amazed that there was such a place – a pristine, beautiful space that felt boundless to them. Their first reaction was to run full-speed until they finally tired out.
Slowing down, they began to explore. They found the home of a family of woodrats. Instinctively they knew not to disturb the threshold of the woodrats’ home. Kneeling down and speaking in whispers, they took in the architecture and peered inside.
On that first morning we met no one and the children felt this new world of wild grasses, butterflies, lizards, mysterious openings to burrows, and circling hawks was theirs alone.
Watching their joy, I realized this was the first time in their lives that they had ever had the chance to play in the way I had been able to as a child.
This land has been a sanctuary for my boys for three years now. Sometimes they invite a friend to come with us. Always, the friend responds to the magic of the landscape.
On one of our visits the boys discovered colored markers driven into the ground at intervals. We later learned these were survey markers and that the Oakland Zoo was planning an expansion into Knowland Park that would include a massive 3-story building that would house zoo offices and a gift shop and restaurant and would involve excavating an area that is presently home to numerous wild creatures.
My children were upset by the idea that the animals they frequently saw might be replaced by plaques stating that these creatures had once lived there. They much preferred to catch glimpses of wildlife in their natural habitats.
It saddens me to think that Oakland’s largest wild public park – Knowland Park – is at risk of being paved over by Oakland Zoo executives. It makes me even sadder to think that with Measure A1, on the ballot this November, Zoo executives could use public funds to make their destructive expansion plans a reality. And contrary to their claims, nothing whatsoever in the measure prevents these funds from being used to build the current expansion—or new ones over the next 25 years. In fact, if you read the measure closely, you will see for yourself that it’s just the opposite: the measure includes very explicit language allowing the money to pay for “expansion,” “construction,” and a “conservation center”—the ridgeline building that is a key part of the expansion plans.
Knowland Park, home to countless species of plants and animals, should be left just as it is. In addition to being able to go to the zoo, children should be given the opportunity to run and explore in an untouched Knowland Park, gazing up at hawks, catching glimpses of lizards and snakes, looking out at the Bay, running their hands over wild grasses, and listening to songbirds. Please vote no on Measure A1 and help us save Knowland Park.
Jane Molnar is a math teacher and educational consultant. She lives in Berkeley with her three sons. The family loves animals and nature.