City Council District 5
City Council District 5
Friends of King Park Logo         


 Friends of King Park  

 by Byron Roos-Collins

September 2012


      Walking past King Park on any given Saturday, one might see toddlers playing with their parents by the stream, students having their recess by the playground, or adults resting under a flowering redbud tree.  There are always people enjoying the park.  Public activity has significantly increased in the past several years since King Park went through a major renovation. Behind many of the tremendous improvements to the park was the steady support of a local volunteer group, Friends of King Park. The group has worked to add features which were included in the 2003 community conceptual vision of the park, but which were not installed during the City's initial refurbishment in 2007. Headed by Berkeley residents Lessly Field and Jeanine Strickland, Friends of King Park has raised thousands of dollars and worked closely with the City of Berkeley for improvements to the park. 

      A longtime District Five resident, Lessly Field and her family live very near to King Park. Consequently, when the initial renovation of King Park left out features from the conceptual vision -  a play structure, water feature, mural, seating in multiple areas- Lessly grasped the opportunity to help achieve the initial vision. After several years of hard work, all of the features listed above have been installed. Focusing on “improving safety and then fun and then functionality and then aesthetics”, Lessly vision was to turn the park into a safe, enjoyable, and beautiful place for community members of all ages.

      One of the most prominent recent additions to the park is the “Watershed” mural. Now beautifully installed and maintained, the mural depicts the journey of water from the mountains to the city. Working with the City of Berkeley to get the mural approved for construction, Friends of King Park raised over eight thousand dollars from the community and received a grant from Alameda County to build the mural with KALA Art Institute.    King School Watershed Mural
 King Play Structure 1            

     During the negotiation stage the group worked closely with Councilmemeber Capitelli from District 5, who was “was instrumental in helping us to work through the City processes” In the spirit of community involvement, students from King’s sixth grade class were included in the conceptual design process. As regular park visitors they got to witness all the phases of the mural’s installation over a month long period. 

      After years of fundraising, landscaping, and negotiations, Lessly loves to see people enjoying the park which she and Jeanine have worked so hard to improve. “On a nice Saturday there will be maybe 60-80 people just hanging out, having a great time...It’s just terrific to see people enjoying what’s there.” Looking to the future, Lessly hopes that more partnerships between the City and volunteer groups such as Friends of King Park will thrive in Berkeley. The group will be doing a “landscaping refresh” of the park in November. 

       If you’d like to contribute or get involved with Friends of King Park, please follow the link to its Yahoo page.



More Information about Friends of King Park

King Park is located at Hopkins and Colusa in Berkeley, adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.  The play area is nestled between the track to the east and the King Swim Center on the west.

In 2003, the City of Berkeley facilitated a community process around improvements to the play area that resulted in a draft concept plan.  In 2007 the City undertook a major capital update on the park based upon that concept plan.  Due to unforeseen grade and drainage issues resulting in unbudgeted expenses, components of the plan had to be prioritized.  Several aspects were not done, including

• water feature in tot area
• Seating wall in tot area
• Landscaping for tot area
• 3rd play structure in “older kids” area
• Table and bench in “older kids” area

“Friends of King Park” is a community-based group organized to work with the City and with interested community members to fully realize the 2003 vision through an updated plan and a capital campaign.   They are operating under the auspices of Berkeley Partners for Parks and have made great progress this year on realizing park improvements including:

  • Partnering with the City and Berkeley Montessori to “free-cycle” an “older kids” play structure (see photo)
  • Working with the City to make safety improvements and obtain two new benches for the tot area
  • Obtaining an Alameda County Stewardship grant for a 2010 watershed-themed mosaic mural installation
  • Raising almost $3,000 in tax deductible pledges for 2010 improvements

If you are interested in joining Friends of King Park, please follow the link to the Yahoo Group and sign-up.

New King Playground Climbing Structure and Friends


       Laurie Capitelli (right) is joined by Lessly Field (left/hat) and other Friends of King Park in celebration of the installation of the new climbing structure donated by the Berkeley Montessori School.

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