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ALAMEDA, Calif. - A group of ten Coast Guard personnel and their family members gathered in Union Point Park in Oakland on Jan. 21 to assist with a park cleanup. The park, adjacent to Coast Guard Island, is the result of a collective effort of a broad range of community groups, agencies and individuals including the Unity Council, the Trust for Public Land, the Coastal Conservancy, the City of Oakland, the Port of Oakland, and the University Oakland Metropolitan among others.
Before, it was littered with debris, discarded shoes and an abandoned propane tank and in some places, defaced by graffiti.
And now members of the Coast Guard 11th District are adopting it.
Once a natural tidal wetland, Union Point Park in Oakland, Calif., has since served as home to a number of industrial businesses that left petroleum, pesticides, and industrial solvents in their wake. It was converted from a vacant lot when the local community successfully initiated a campaign to turn the former industrial site into a park in 1997. When it was discovered that it would cost as much as $3 million to remove all the contaminated soil, a plan to safely encapsulate that fill under a large lookout hill within the park saved the project. This lookout hill has become a signature feature of the park that exemplifies the creative use of green remediation.
“Members of the 11th District staff have officially adopted the park through the adopt-a-site program with Oakland,” said Chris Atkinson, a member of the Coast Guard’s 11th District Response Advisory team. “There are single dates available but we’ve made a yearlong commitment. We’re planning to alternate cleanups on Thursdays, twice a month. We’ll do the weeding, fix the broken playground rides – just whatever needs the attention that the city doesn’t have the funding to support the way they’d like to.
“We are here to give back to the community,” said Coast Guard Captain Arthur Snyder, who pitched in to assist with the park cleanup that involved graffiti removal, raking and trash pickup. “This is part of an ongoing project to continue the improvement of the park, maintain the landscaping and make it a place that families will want to spend time in.”
“The park is right here at our front door,” said Atkinson, who was responsible for much of the coordination and organizing of the event. “But a lot of people don’t even realize it’s there. The service nature of the Coast Guard lends itself to being able to give back to the community. Being a former industrial site, this park has the potential to become a blighted area if we don’t keep on it."
Having more families involved will help. It’s also a good way to teach children responsibility.
“I was so proud of my son for pitching in to help with the clean up,” said Atkinson. “When we were finished, I was ready to buy him ice cream, take him to the movies, do whatever he wanted. Instead, he looked up at me and asked if we could go geocaching.”