Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park reopens after delayed renovations

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Nikhar Arora/Staff

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Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Downtown Berkeley reopened Jan. 18 at noon with a celebration and ribbon-cutting after months of maintenance and beautification efforts.

The park, which has been the site of numerous controversial rallies, closed Oct. 16, with a projected completion date of Dec. 31.

The project involved no significant structural alterations, according to Scott Ferris, director of Berkeley’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department. It instead focused on maximizing safety as well as remedying areas of “unsightliness.” Among these efforts were turf renovation, concrete replacement, tree trimming, sign replacement and graffiti removal.

Excluding “staff time,” the renovations amounted to $140,000, which was primarily used to hire contractors and buy supplies. Before Oct. 16, the park had not undergone significant improvements in more than a decade, when a skate wall and play equipment were added.

Ferris said renovations for the park were long overdue and that the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department had been trying to find a date to do so for the past 2 1/2 years.

“That park gets a lot of use and abuse because there’s a lot of weekend special events,” Ferris said. “There are protests and so on and so forth. … Anytime you have uneven surfaces, you’re susceptible to trip and call claims. Some of the stuff was beautification, but a lot of the benches were falling apart.”

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko called the park a “centerpiece” of the Berkeley community and said residents were generally enthusiastic about the renovations.

According to Chakko, during the past 18 months, the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department has completed 13 projects to renovate a number of the city’s 52 parks, including Grove Park, Terrace View Park and the tot lot at Willard Park.

Contact Jared Brewer at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @JaredBBrewer.