MLK Jr., Civic Center Park, Berkeley, CA

MLK Jr., Civic Center Park, Berkeley, CA

MLK Jr., Civic Center Park, Berkeley, CAMLK Jr., Civic Center Park, Berkeley, CAMLK Jr., Civic Center Park, Berkeley, CA


A team of civically engaged Berkeley residents working to revitalize the central fountain in Civic Center Plaza.



Our project was recently awarded a UC Berkeley Chancellor's Community Partnership Fund Grant in collaboration with our University Partner and recent MacArthur Fellowship awardee, as well as Gish Prize winner, Walter Hood, College of Environmental Design professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning and Urban Design; and our Community Partner, Berkeley Partners for Parks

About the Project

 GOAL: A team of civically engaged Berkeley residents has proposed 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 (see 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 grants and 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.  


  • replacing currently open trench areas with drought tolerant native plantings & landscaping
  • resurfacing of the overall basin floor (in lieu of replacing the non-functioning fountain)
  • installation of existing (4) bronze turtle sculptures + (8) Native American designed stone medallions
  • addition of a mosaic low feature wall (on face of fountain’s low inner ring wall) 
  • addition of a perimeter circular bench system (atop existing outer ring wall) 

Our team plan is focused on the development of an updated design of the fountain area to be paid for through fundraising from public and private sources. 

BUDGET: $250,000 

Working in alignment with the City of Berkeley's Office of Economic Development, on their Civic Center Plaza Project, with project approved consultant Gehl Studio (along with Seigel & Strain, and others), we’re interested in shepherding this important element of the project to completion via an 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.

Our Team:

The Turtle Island Fountain Project team is organized by volunteer citizens Elyce Klein, Deb Durant, & David Snippen in coordination with input from City of Berkeley agencies, groups, and councils plus a relevant  assembled advisory team made up of groups and individuals. 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 

Margaret Mead

Advisory Team:

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) 

Luigi Oldani, Oldani Art Studio

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

How YOU can HELP

Your donation helps! 

CLICK HERE for credit card or check payment link


All payments handled via our fiscal agent Berkeley Partners for Parks (BPFP), and Network for Good). 


The fountain's origins



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.”

Dormant since the 70's


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.

Early redesign plans


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.

Turtle Island takes shape


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

Future planning



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.

About Us



Organized by volunteer citizens Elyce Klein, Deb Durant, & David Snippen in coordination with input from an assembled advisory team plus related City of Berkeley departments. 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 

Margaret Mead



Your suppoprt is crucially important!

MANY THANKS for your help ~

credit cards & checks accepted, just click the link above


*PLEASE be sure to write "TURTLE ISLAND FOUNTAIN" in the 'DESIGNATION BOX' when prompted

ALL PAYMENTS are handled via our fiscal agent Berkeley Partners for Parks (BPFP) & Network for Good

A Great Project (whose time has come)


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!


 This project is supported by the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund.


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Turtle Island Fountain Project