Aquatic Park, located in the southwest corner of Berkeley, is a long linear 100-acre park between Ashby and University Avenues. The park’s official address is 80 Bolivar, at the foot of Bancroft Avenue. The lagoon, which covers 67.7 acres of the park, is fed by two sources of water: tidal water from San Francisco Bay and fresh water from storm water that drains into the lagoon. The park includes the streets that surround it. Walking, biking, picnicking, boating, bird watching, and Frisbee golf are just a few of the activities available at Aquatic Park. Swimming and fishing are prohibited.

The Works Progress Administration built Aquatic Park between 1935 and 1937. (WPA). It was constructed as part of the Berkeley Waterfront Project, which also included the construction of the Bayshore Highway and the Yacht Harbor. Tide gates were built to help keep the water level in Aquatic Park Lake consistent. On May 7, 1937, a citywide celebration called “Pageant of the Land and Sea” was held to formally dedicate the park for public use.

Aquatic Park Lake was designed to meet international standards for Model Yacht Racing, and the park hosted both the National and Pacific Coast Regattas for M-class Boats in 1938.

Community involvement has been critical in the development of various features at Aquatic Park over the years. Recently, over 2,000 volunteers organized by Friends of Aquatic Park and Berkeley Partners for Parks helped to build “Dream Land for Kids,” a fantasy playground designed by Berkeley schoolchildren under the supervision of architect Robert Leathers and Associates.

The park is located between the Interstate 80 freeway and the former Southern Pacific Railroad tracks (now Union Pacific). Tidal gates beneath the freeway maintain a constant water level and replenish the basin with water from San Francisco Bay. The Eastshore Highway, a feeder road for the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, created a causeway/barrier further out in the bay, which sparked the aquatic park project.

The aquatic park and the Berkeley Yacht Harbor cost a total of $668,000, out of a total of $1,040,000 allocated to 23 WPA projects throughout the city in 1935. (Tribune, Dec. 12, 1935).

A set of stone bleachers at the basin’s southern end is used to watch model yacht races. On the west side, there appears to be a former concession stand, as well as two old wooden bleachers and stone fireplaces. The source of those is unknown.

The WPA was reported to be completing a road around the entire park and planting 10,000 trees and shrubs in 1939. (Berkeley Gazette 1939). According to the handsome old Monterey Cypress trees along both shores, the road along the west side of the basin still looks original, and many of the trees and shrubs survive. In the 2000s, the freeway was widened, resulting in the removal of another row of plantings.

The city of Berkeley has developed the east side of the park over the years for a variety of recreational activities, including a children’s play area, winding path, picnic tables, and a frisbee golf course. The WPA does not appear to have done any of that work.

The Southern Pacific Railroad planted the very tall eucalyptus trees along the railroad in the nineteenth century to stabilize the embankment when the tracks were laid across bay mudflats.

Berkeley, California is blessed with some of the Bay Area’s most beautiful parks.  Here’s a list of our favorites:

  • Codornices Park
  • Ohlone Park
  • Berkeley Way Mini-Park
  • Grizzly Peak Park
  • César E. Chávez Park
  • Willard Park
  • Grove Park
  • Live Oak Park

All of these parks are located just a short distance from our location in downtown Berkeley, at 1935 Addison Street, Suite A!