Contentious maintenance project begins at People’s Park

UC Berkeley sent work crews to People’s Park Wednesday to undertake a maintenance project aimed in part at reducing the park’s rat population — a move which has drawn criticism from park activists.

The crews labored all of Wednesday on the campus-owned park “in an effort to provide students and the broader community with safer, more sanitary conditions,” according to a campus press release.

“The overall look of the park itself will not change — the stage, benches, community gardens and other features will remain intact,” the release reads.

But according to Terri Compost, an activist and gardener at the park, the work crews leveled structures that were of historic significance for the park community as a part of the maintenance project.

Compost said the crews leveled a pergola that volunteers put together after the campus installed a volleyball court in the park in 1991 that resulted in a span of riots and protests by park activists.

The pergola, which went through a long process of design by park volunteers before being approved by architects hired by the campus, acted as a sort of peace symbol after the volleyball court was removed, Compost said.

According to long-time People’s Park volunteer Arthur Fonseca, the sudden arrival of the work crews also upset many park-goers because they did not receive notice from the campus about the project ahead of time.

“In reality it’s obviously a public park, and dealing with it as private property is totally inappropriate,” he said.

Over the course of the project, a flier from the campus was distributed through the park explaining the project and emphasizing that the overall look of the park would not be changed by the maintenance.

According to the release, additional improvements to the park will be made in coming months and will include the addition of more trash cans and lights as well as efforts to reduce the rat population by improving the park’s compost bin and installing wire mesh at the stage located in the park.

Jaehak Yu and Annie Sciacca cover city government.