New Handrails on Upper Covert Path Mark the Start of Long-Awaited Handrail Corridor

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New Handrails on Upper Covert Path Mark the Start of

Long-Awaited Handrail Corridor

More than 300’ of new handrails now make it easier to use Upper Covert Path, which connects Cragmont and Keeler Avenues. The handrails on this long, steep path are the first step in what BPWA hopes will one day become an official handrail corridor.

 Intended as a route for people who need a little extra help to enjoy some of hills and views in North Berkeley, the designated corridor will provide a safe, scenic way to go from Euclid Avenue to Grizzly Peak Blvd. — or the reverse.

 It will include two older concrete stairways, which always have had handrails; three newer wood-tie paths that BPWA volunteers have built, two of which still need handrails; and some gentle streets in between those paths.

 BPWA Board Member Jacob Lehmann Duke first proposed this concept and has been instrumental, literally, in getting it off the ground.

 “I came up with the idea for a handrail corridor after talking to my grandma, who walks a lot and would love to walk more of the Berkeley paths,” Jacob recalled.  “But she finds it hard to balance safely on steep terrain without handrails. I knew there were probably lots of people like her, who currently can’t enjoy the hill paths.”

How the corridor works

 As Jacob envisions it, the corridor will start on Euclid at El Mirador Path, between Keith and Eunice Avenues, and end at the junction of Creston Road and Grizzly Peak. After climbing El Mirador, walkers then will:

      Follow a bit of Keith Avenue south to Martinez Path

·      Head east on Cragmont Avenue to climb Upper Covert

·      Cross Keeler Avenue to take Whitaker Path

·      Continue up Whitaker Avenue, past Grizzly Peak Park, a pocket park with a water fountain

·      Turn left onto Miller Avenue, passing Anne Brower Path, to reach Ina Coolbrith Path (formerly named Bret Harte      Lane)

“Folks then can take a nice walk on Creston Road, which is much more pleasant than walking on the more-heavily trafficked Grizzly Peak,” says BPWA President Colleen Neff. “Or they can turn around and return the same way they came up.”

Jacob explains that Upper Covert Path was a natural first choice for this project because it is so steep with so many stairs.  “But, he adds, “ it also is a favorite, with its great view and a bench part way up for a rest stop.”

Next on our handrail agenda will be Whitaker Path (between Keeler and Sterling Avenues), followed by Ina Coolbrith Path (between Miller and Grizzly Peak), which will complete the corridor.

Handrails are a expensive

 However, as Colleen stresses, the cost of these new handrails “is as steep as the terrain.”

BPWA paid more than $15,000 for the handrails on Upper Covert Path. The money came from sales of our map, Berkeley and Its Pathways, membership dues, and donations from our fellow path enthusiasts.  “But we clearly will need more contributions to cover the cost of installing the remaining handrails.” (Click here to support this effort.)

The handrail corridor will be a dream come true for Jacque Ensign, one of BPW’s founders, who started a special handrail fund in 200_ and has been a tireless advocate for adding handrails to Berkeley’s most challenging steps and walkways.

“We have these wonderful new paths, but many of them are steep!” says Jacque Ensign, who served as BPWA’s first president and has lived in Berkeley more than half of her 85 years. Jacque still walks the Berkeley paths as often as possible but says she would do more of them if there were more handrails.

 "As you get older, your balance isn't great,” she says, “and your knees don't flex like they used to. We need more handrails."