By Alina Constantinescu
President, Berkeley Path Wanderers Association
On July 22 of last year, nearly 80 volunteers fanned out all over Berkeley, clipboards in hand, to walk all the paths in Berkeley and record their condition. With sharp eyes on signage, steps, handrails, and overgrowth, our volunteers gathered invaluable information to inform BPWA’s ongoing path improvement efforts.
BPWA collected the info sheets and compiled our volunteers' observations into this report. The first of its kind since the City of Berkeley last assessed the paths in 1993, the report describes in detail the remediation needed to bring our path network into good condition.
The survey is a “living document”; it was last revised in September 2019 to capture recent progress made on path repairs and improvements. Going forward, BPWA plans to conduct these surveys every 5 years.
We are grateful to our community. We could not have done this without you!
Path maintenance: Since last summer, BPWA volunteers have used the survey findings to prioritize repairs of wood-tie steps and vegetation clearing of overgrown paths at our volunteer maintenance parties. We’ve had volunteer work parties on 13 paths. Dedicated BPWA volunteers also conducted small repairs on 11 paths. (If you'd like to lend a hand, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Public Works referrals: BPWA also used the survey to alert the City of Berkeley about work that our volunteers cannot perform and where we need the city to step in, such as replacing missing path signs and performing structural and handrail repairs on historic concrete paths. BPWA representatives have held regular meetings with the Department of Public Works and have developed a great partnership this year. Subsequently, Public Works crews added most of the documented missing signs (they are working on the remaining few) and repaired all the broken handrails identified in our survey. We continue to let them know about other repair needs as they are discovered by community members.
Structural repairs: BPWA also works with Berkeley’s Public Works Department to prioritize structural repairs on historic concrete paths such as Redwood Terrace and Sterling Path. Funds are limited and this type of work is resource-intensive, but we are hopeful that one or two concrete paths can be addressed in the next year or so. City staff have indicated that they are working with council members and the fire department to push for more paths funding and to address hazardous steps, vegetation management, handrail installation, and even lights for the path network. Last year's North Bay and Paradise fires brought a new focus on the paths as potential life-saving evacuation routes; this is reflected in the City's increased attention for path improvements.
Like other infrastructure in Berkeley, the backlog for paths improvements can seem overwhelming, but we're taking it one step at a time (literally), and the recent partnership between the City and dedicated BPWA volunteers is already bringing noted improvements on the paths. We are thrilled with the progress that has been made since we undertook the survey, and we look forward to providing more updates to our community as work progresses. Please stay tuned.