GOAL: A team of civically engaged Berkeley residents is proposing a design project to revitalize the central fountain feature in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park and complete the City approved memorial to the Bay Area’s indigenous communities including the Ohlone Indians, Berkeley's original inhabitants. Picking up where the city left off in 2005, the current plan would utilize already existing city approved artwork elements (documentation below) with a primary focus on safety, preservation, and beautification of the fountain, factoring in sustainability issues and current security concerns. We believe this revitalization effort - which would be paid for through public fundraising efforts - will not only make safe again and preserve this once-beautiful feature in the heart of Berkeley, but will also help promote revitalization of the downtown business district, enhancing and honoring the Berkeley community and the overall Civic Center culture.
Our team plans to focus on the development of an updated design of the fountain area to be paid for through fundraising from public and private sources.
We’re interested in shepherding this important project to completion by in inclusive weaving together of all interested parties (i.e., Public Works Engineering, Parks & Waterfront, Landmarks Preservation Commission, BAHA, Native America community members, Public Arts Council members, etc) to consult on the development of an inspired design - one that thrives in today’s current environment while respecting the historical integrity of the civic center park and fountain - which incorporates the previously approved design elements honoring the original Native American inhabitants of Berkeley.
John Caner, CEO Downtown Berkeley
Theodore Ellison, mosaic artist, Artistic License Guild member
Loni Hancock, former Mayor of Berkeley, CA State Assembly, CA State Senate
Corinna Gould, Sogorea Te’ Land Trust
Michael Gray, Friends of the Fountain and Walk
Walter Hood, Creative Director, Hood Design Studio
Malcolm Margolin, Executive Director, California ICAN
Vincent Medina, Cafe Ohlone - Mak-'amham, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe
Stephen Most, Friends of Ohlone Park (FOOP)
Scott Parsons, original Turtle Island Fountain artist
Eric Powell, artist/sculptor
Arlene Silk, BAHA, Board of Directors
John Steere, President, Berkeley Partners for Parks
Phil Stevens, licensed contractor
Sherri Warner Hunter, mosaics, Stanford Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital
Charles Wilson, Landscape Architect, Friends of The Fountain Board member
Matthew Winkelstein, AIA, licensed CA architect, LEED Accredited Professional
Excerpts of original documentation from the City of Berkeley website:
“In May 1940, Berkeley voters passed a $125,000 bond measure to acquire property to develop a Civic Center Plaza. The design included contributions from many of Berkeley’s most noted architects and landscape architects, and labor was furnished by the federal Works Projects Administration (WPA). The electrically illuminated fountain set in a flagstone terrace was a gift to the City of Berkeley from the City of San Francisco after the Golden Gate Exposition closed. The City’s first playground, located behind City Hall west of the Civic Center, was moved to Civic Center Park in the 1930s when the Hall of Justice was built. A new “Tiny Tots” playground was opened to the public on May 18, 1948.
The park was designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in 1983 in honor of the slain civil rights giant. (The park had also been known as Provo Park during the years of the anti-Vietnam War movement, after the progressive political group of that name which was started in Amsterdam.) An Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) rehabilitation grant provided approximately $74,000 in 1983–1984 to renovate the tot area, lawn, shrubs, benches, and pathways. The park is scheduled for a complete renovation in coming years using funds from Measure S, a bond measure passed in the mid-1990s for downtown improvements.”
The fountain has remained dormant since the mid-70's. Over the decades, numerous factors have arisen which originally weren't concerns including: the need for water conservation due to statewide drought conditions; homelessness; drug use / sale of drugs; plus additional safety concerns - all which increasingly impact the park and its fountain.
In 1994, newly elected Mayor Shirley Dean was first approached by one of our members, Elyce Klein, with the suggestion that she initiate a process specifically to fix the defunct fountain. Klein was part of a diverse group of interested citizens who - over the course of 2 years - had unanimously agreed on a design for the fountain and produced a set of recommendations. In response, Mayor Dean called for the creation of a planning commission subcommittee to draw up plans - incorporating the redesign of the entire MLK Jr. Civic Center Park. The citizen groups’ design and recommendations were the basis of the finalized study by architectural firm Freedman Tung and Bottomley. The park and its fountain were then landmarked in 1997 in response to these efforts, in order to protect and preserve the basic design of its historical features.
Design recommendations for the fountain were based on a “Turtle Island Monument” concept proposal by artist & community activist Lee Sprague, as illustrated above.
According to the City of Berkeley website: “In November 1996, Berkeley voters adopted Measure S, which authorized bond funds of $4 million for public improvements in the Downtown Area. A total of $900,000 was allocated toward the renovation of Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The Turtle Island Monument project received Measure S funds totaling $34,000.
In 2003 a Call to Artist design competition was advertised nationwide and proposals were reviewed by a Selection Committee comprised of: two Civic Arts Commissioners, two Parks & Recreation Commissioners, two Landmarks Preservation Commissioners, two members of the Native American community, and one Parks Recreation & Waterfront Department staff person.
On April 27, 2005, the Civic Arts Commission approved Scott Parson of Sioux Falls South Dakota, as the artist to complete the Turtle Island Monument at the Civic Center Fountain. Parson was contracted to design, develop and install four bronze Loggerhead Turtles and four stone medallions in the Civic Center Park Fountain. In 2008, Parson shipped the finished turtles to the City for public display elsewhere until the Civic Center Park Fountain is restored. The turtles are currently displayed in the Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center, 2180 Milvia Street, 1st and 5th Floor Lobby.” From Scott Parson’s website:
“As part of a larger effort undertaken by the City of Berkeley, California to renovate the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley, this project is designed to honor and recognize Native American history commemorating the end of 500 years of resistance and the beginning of 500 years of rebuilding.
The Turtle Island Monument is an unprecedented, multi-visionary approach to the making of a public art monument. The Monument consists of four turtles placed on the true north, south, east and west axis, mounted in the lower pool of an existing historical fountain, and eight medallions incorporated into the surrounding plaza surface. Eight contemporary Native American artists each designed a 3-ft. diameter stone medallion to commemorate his or her own people. The four large Loggerhead turtles I sculpted weigh nearly 200 pounds each and are 46 inches in length. This project is on hold. Actual installation of the project is forthcoming and will take place when the City of Berkeley renovates the entire Park. Currently the turtles are on display and available for viewing in Berkeley City Hall.”
Artists: Scott Parsons; Harley L. Zephier Wambli Hoksila – Dakota – Mdewakanton & Lakota – Mnicoujou; Mateo Romero – Cochiti Pueblo; Linda Yamane – Ohlone; Ramon Murillo – Shoshone-Bannock; David Jones – Choctaw/Delaware; Ruth Taylor – Ojibwa
Excerpts from a resolution passed by the Berkeley City Council on July 25, 2017:
“…the City Manager to merge the Old City Hall and Veterans Building Conceptual Design Projects approved for Phase 1 of Measure T1 implementation and add Civic Center Park to create a single, unified conceptual design project for these three Civic Center elements, at a cost of $300,000, the combined amounts already allocated by Council… Proposals for this combined conceptual design project must conform to the existing
Historic Civic Center Overlay and incorporate state-of-the art green and environmental features.”
Separate but adjacent to the fountain is the surrounding flagstone area and Peace Walls require restoration, which hopefully will be included in a larger city funded effort to restore the overall Civic Center Plaza.
Your donation helps!
CLICK HERE for credit card or check payment link
*PLEASE WRITE "TURTLE ISLAND FOUNTAIN" in DESIGNATION BOX.
All payments are handled via our fiscal agent Berkeley Partners for Parks (BPFP) & Network for Good.
Plans to renovate the MLK Jr. Civic Center Plaza Fountain have been underway since the early 90's (two decades after it was last funtioning..) We're ready to get this done!
Organized by volunteer citizens Elyce Klein, David Snippen, & Deb Durant, with input from their assembled advisory team.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Sign up to hear from us about our work, progress, and any events!
When we work together we can accomplish great things!
Please send us a message about volunteering and we'll get back to you soon.