“An Opportunity for Refreshment of Body and Mind”
Recently, we were asked: “I am a little unclear as to who actually owns the park. Is the land owned by EBPRD and is part of Claremont Canyon preserve?”
On the face of it, there is a simple answer—the land is owned by the City of Oakland and John Garber Park is an Oakland City park. Garber Park is NOT “part of” East Bay Regional Park District’s Claremont Canyon Preserve but it IS “part of” Claremont Canyon.
A brief chronology of the land and the park starts with a prominent family of the old Claremont District, Judge and Mrs. John Garber, who in 1888, built a spacious mansion close to the site of the current Claremont Hotel on grounds that came to be known as the Bellrose Tract. (The mansion on Tanglewood Road was later demolished to build the Hotel.)
The heirs of the Garber estate acting through Frank D. Stringham, husband of Garber’s daughter Juliet, and later, Mayor of Berkeley, offered the eastern segment of the Bellrose Tract—basically the mansion’s backyard—to the Berkeley City Council at the half-value of $2,500 on the condition that the land be maintained as a park with the name John Garber Park. The deed including the conditions was recorded March 4, 1920.
The January 25, 1920 San Francisco Chronicle article links the sale and the conditions to a public conversation then-current on the topic of urban open space: “The spot is certain to become a popular resort and demonstrate its community value as the other parks and playgrounds of the City are doing every day. Every piece of ground thus added to the open spaces of Berkeley should be an occasion of public rejoicing on account of what it means both to those now living and to future generations who will find here in a city much more congested than at present, an opportunity for refreshment of body and mind.”
In early 1952 John Garber Park along with another remnant of the Bellrose Tract were deeded from the City of Berkeley to the City of Oakland, which in turn became bound by the covenants of use and name. It appears that this transfer formalized the fact that Berkeley’s John Garber Park was in fact and long had been within the boundaries of the City of Oakland.
In the early 1970s, in response to intensive upland residential development, Berkeley’s Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association promoted the creation of a Claremont Canyon Preserve which included Garber Park, thus reflecting the geologic and biologic unity of the canyon for which Garber Park and its environs are the lower riparian mouth. This proposal resulted in mid-canyon acquisitions by the East Bay Regional Park District that became the Claremont Canyon Preserve, but Garber Park remained within the City of Oakland and is in fact cut off from the Preserve by intervening private property, developed and undeveloped.
Throughout this century of jurisdictional succession, John Garber Park has experienced several cycles of use, decline, and repair, but has managed to retain its unique wildland character. Now standing at the 21st century threshold of comprehensive restoration, Oakland’s John Garber Park still offers an outstanding “opportunity for refreshment of body and mind.”
Friend of Garber 2