Stone sign cairn, Tilden Park - Berkeley CA
The East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) was formed in 1934 and acquired land for parks from the East Bay Municipal Water District in 1936. The first parks were Tilden, Sibley, Temescal and Redwood in the East Bay Hills behind Berkeley and Oakland CA.
The New Deal provided extensive aid towards improving the new parks for public recreation, working with the Parks District’s first general manager, Elbert Vail. Overall, the New Deal agencies spent roughly $3 million on the East Bay parks, about double the tax funds available to the EBRPD over the same period (Stein 1984, p. 18)
Even before the parks were acquired, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) set up camps in the hills and the CCC operated in the parks for the entire New Deal decade, 1933-42. The first camp was in Wildcat Canyon at the present site of the Nature Center. The CCC cleared away trees and brush, built roads and trails, created picnic grounds and planted trees.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was active in the parks c. 1939-42, adding some major roads, a golf course, the botanical garden, picnic areas, comfort stations, trails and more, as well as planting trees.
Additional park improvements done by the CCC and WPA workers that are not mentioned elsewhere include:
•Rock monuments holding signs giving locations and directions
•Rustic bridges at the Tilden Nature area, two along the Stream Trail in Redwood Park, several along Redwood Canyon Road, and one over Grass Valley Creek in what would later become Chabot Regional Park.
•Drainage features, such as stone gutters, storm drains and stream walls.
•Six springs tapped in Tilden Park and five in Redwood Park.
•Water and sewage systems throughout the parks.
•A garage and repair shops for Tilden Park, behind the Brazilian Room
Elbert Vail, The Early Story of the East Bay Regional Parks. Unpublished manuscript, East Bay Regional Parks District archives.
Elbert Vail, Progress Report, c 1940, East Bay Regional Parks District archives
Elbert Vail, 1940 Master Plan. Oakland CA: East Bay Regional Parks District, 1940. East Bay Regional Parks District archives
Mimi Stein, A Vision Achieved:Fifty Years of the East Bay Regional Parks District. Oakland CA: East Bay Regional Parks District, 1984. @ https://www.ebparks.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=25719
Brechin, Gray. 2008. "Forgotten Foundation". Bay Nature Magazine. January 1. http://baynature.org/articles/jan-mar-2008/forgotten-foundation
Anonymous, "WPA and CCC worksites in East Bay Regional Parks," typescript report, January 2, 2012.
Smith, Harvey. 2014. Berkeley and the New Deal. Charleston SC: Arcadia Books.
Amanda Sue Marshall, The East Bay Hills: A Brief History. Charleston SC: The History Press, 2017.
Project originally submitted by Richard Walker on August 9, 2020.
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