I really enjoy Lake Merritt. I I realize that isn’t a particularly interesting observation or anything, practically everyone who lives in Oakland would probably say the exact same thing.
Well, not everyone. I recently caught a ride downtown with two Oakland residents who had both lived here for like, 20+ years, and as we drove past the Lake, they were like “Oh wow, is that Lake Merritt?” “Gee whiz, I think it is!” “Jeepers, I forgot how pretty it was, it’s been like six or seven years since I’ve been down here.” “Golly, me too.” It was weird. But for people who don’t live in Oakland/Mars (the aforementioned couple had also never been to a taco truck and expressed stunned curiosity at all the Spanish-language signs along East 14th), this charming oasis in the middle of the city is one of those things that make Oakland such a special place to live.
For frequent visitors to the Lake, the last few months have been really exciting. It’s really nice to finally see some visible progress coming from all that Measure DD money. For those who can’t make it there all that often, John Klein has helpfully documented these improvements with a wonderful series of photo sets on Flickr.
On the downtown side of the Lake, progress on the boathouse restoration is moving along nicely, and I, for one, am very much looking forward to being able to eat mediocre and overpriced food at Lake Chalet there when it opens in August. (Okay, that might be a little unfair. Their chef has quite the resume. But I’m always suspicious of view food.)
Anyway, as nice as the new boathouse looks, I have to admit I’m more than a little concerned about the way the improvements in that area appear to be shaping up. The Lake is lovely not just because of the water, but also all the greenery surrounding it. I can’t imagine swimming pool Merritt would attract nearly so many picnickers. Unfortunately, greenery seems to be in short supply along this stretch of Lakeside Drive. Instead, we have a vast expanse of concrete to look forward to. The pictures below (courtesy of John Klein) show the current sidewalk alongside an absurdly large space for the new sidewalk. Check it out.
Compare this to the renderings the City had previously advertised here (PDF), which promised significantly more green space. I realize the City is strapped for park maintenance funds, but come on.
I walk along this stretch of the Lake pretty much every morning on the way to work (well, mornings I manage to get out the house early enough anyway), and I do think that the path could stand to be widened a couple feet to accommodate the heavy traffic. But this is freaking ridiculous.