Our Newest Path Will Honor John Muir

Our newest path will also have a new name. Completed this fall, Keeler Walk (#32 on our map) soon will be christened John Muir Path.  It is the 34th path that BPWA volunteers have built with wood timbers and connects Grizzly Peak Blvd. and Creston Rd., midway between the end of Euclid and Marin Avenues.

We officially will open John Muir Path on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 1:30 p.m, with a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony at the bottom of the path (701 Grizzly Peak), across from the end of Keeler Ave.  Immediately afterward, Charlie Bowen, our path-building co-leader, will offer a two-hour, hilly walk that will include nine more of our newer paths.

Renaming the Path

The story of name change of our newest path is a bit circuitous. Our map shows a Muir Path (#73), but it lies on property owned by the Park Hills Neighborhood Association. The association recently renamed it Patty Kates Path in honor of a long-time Park Hills resident. Jacob Lehmann Duke, a new BPWA board member, learned of the change and suggested that we continue to honor John Muir by renaming Keeler Walk after him.

“We thought it was a great idea because John Muir is such an important figure, and because we already had Keeler Path (#41),” recalls BPWA President Colleen Neff.  “It’s a lovely shortcut along the upper part of Remillard Park.”

Creating a Walk Corridor

The newly completed path provides a crucial link in what someday will be a walk corridor from Creston to Grizzly Peak to Halkin Walk (#31) and then to the-yet-to-be-built Lower Halkin Walk (#30) to Halkin Lane (a very short street) to Alta Vista Path (#27) and, finally, to Santa Barbara Rd.

Even now, the future John Muir Path is a welcome shortcut for pedestrians heading up or down the North Berkeley Hills. In addition, the #65 AC Transit bus stops on Grizzly Peak near bottom path, so people can ride to and from it.

Most important, however, is that once Lower Halkin is finished, the neighborhood will gain a vital escape route as well as a faster way for first responders to reach emergencies.

Building the Path

Our surveyors started mapping Keeler Walk early this year. Obtaining a professional survey is an important first step in obtaining the city’s permission to install steps on undeveloped, ten-foot wide, public rights of way. But first, our volunteers had to clear enough ivy and bamboo to give the surveyors access to the entire length of the future path.

Approval to build the path came in March. The Weekday Hotshots, our crack team of path builders, then spent two months removing more bamboo and ivy as well as digging out brambles and several large Cotoneaster shrubs.  A group of community volunteers spent an entire Saturday continuing the cleanup."It was exciting to see the path emerge as we removed the wall of vegetation," says John Kenny, one of the Hotshots.

The path is mostly gentle, rising only 45 feet, but the bottom is fairly steep. “The terrain called for runs of only four or five steps with long platforms between them,” says Steve Glaeser, path building co-leader.  “To get enough rise in the flatter sections, we had to dig out a lot of dirt at the bottom of each set of steps and pile it at the top.”

Jaz Zaitlin, one of the Hotshots, donated twenty five-gallon buckets to help with this task.  The crew filled them with dirt as they dug it up and then dumped it at the top of the run.  “The buckets allowed us to store dirt without having to pile it up,” Steve explains, “which saved us a lot of hard work.”

A newly purchased tamper helped path builders compact the fill at the top of each run.

Four more community work parties installed steps and cleared decades of overgrowth. The last of the 75 steps was installed in October.

“As this path took shape, we had a close working relationship with the new Paths and Sidewalks staff in Public Works Engineering,” notes Charlie.  “We look forward to more collaborations with them.”