Founding and Legacy Documents Collection

Finding aid created by East Bay Regional Park District staff using RecordEXPRESS
East Bay Regional Park District
2950 Peralta Oaks Ct.
Oakland, California
(510) 544-2199
https://www.ebparks.org/
2021


Descriptive Summary

Title: Founding and Legacy Documents Collection
Dates: Inclusive 1865-2014; Bulk 1931-1937
Collection Number: FLD
Creator/Collector: East Bay Regional Park District
Extent: 3.9 cubic feet, two full drawers of a letter-size filing cabinet.
Repository: East Bay Regional Park District
Oakland, California
Abstract: This collection documents the founding of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) from approximately the 1920s through the 1960s. It contains various types of records including reports, bills, master plans, correspondence, memos, minutes, resolutions, photographs and maps, histories, newspaper clippings, press releases, speeches, lectures, logbooks, project documents, magazines, and more. The range of dates for the material in the collection is 1865-2014 with the bulk being 1931-1937. Much of the collection is made up of copies, with photocopies accounting for a small portion of those, particularly in the newspaper clippings. Subjects in this collection include EBMUD land acquisition, the Olmsted/Hall report, Assembly Bill 1114, historical accounts authored by Elbert M. Vail, the campaign and effort to establish the Park District, the park opening ceremony on October 18, 1936, the Tilden Golf Course, the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, and Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects.
Language of Material: English

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Preferred Citation

Founding and Legacy Documents Collection. East Bay Regional Park District

Acquisition Information

The provenance or custodial history of this collection is largely unknown and there are no existing donor agreements to indicate a legitimate transfer of materials from a specific donor to the repository. Still, it has been collected piecemeal over time through generations of passionate Park District staff who sought to preserve the history despite the lack of a formalized repository. Credit can be given, generally and in part, to the Park District’s first General Manager Elbert M. Vail. It is not indicated within the documents themselves which items he is responsible for collecting. It is through the assistance of volunteer work from former District employees that we know of his contribution at all. Additionally, there are newspaper clippings and correspondence that are labeled as having been collected by Miss May Dornin of the Contra Costa Hills Club and then later donated to the EBRPD by John Steere. District board member Beverly Lane is credited with supplying this information in the year 2004. With all this information in mind, the East Bay Regional Park District is labeled as the creator of the collection until further custodial information, if any, can be known.

Biography/Administrative History

In the depths of the Great Depression, a local parks campaign in California’s San Francisco East Bay led to the signing of Assembly Bill 1114 in 1933 which authorized the formation of one of the first regional park districts in the United States. Subsequently, on November 4th, 1934, citizens of Alameda County, with an astounding outcome of over 2/3rd majority, voted to tax themselves in support of the formation of an East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), for the conservation and management of recreational and natural parklands in a growing metropolis. The newly-formed Park District was originally made up of land in the East Bay hills that at different times was primarily owned and operated by water companies. These water companies were the Contra Costa Water Company, the People’s Water Company, the East Bay Water Company, and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). These surplus water lands were surveyed and mapped out in the 1930 report Proposed Reservations in East Bay Cities (also known as the “Olmsted/Hall Report”). This report was authored by Ansel F. Hall, the first Chief Naturalist of the National Park Service whose office was stationed at the University of California, Berkeley, and by the nationally renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., along with his firm the Olmsted Brothers, who were commissioned by the citizens-founded Regional Parks Association that supported a plan to create and preserve recreational parklands in the East Bay hills. By the mid-1960s, the EBRPD expanded to include parklands in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties acquiring almost all of the lands outlined in the Olmsted/Hall Report and focusing on growing even further eastward into Contra Costa County, and along the East Bay shorelines and marshlands threatened by industry and urbanization. During this time the Park District was not only providing parkland recreation but transitioning into including the acquisition of land specifically to protect open space and natural habitat that also included biological and ecological stewardship, interpretive programming, and police and fire protection services to the growing communities. The success and growth of the Park District can be attributed, in part, to the various general managers throughout EBRPD history. The first General Manager Elbert M. Vail, who also led the campaign for the original bond measure, was followed by Harold Curtiss, Richard E. Walpole, William Penn Mott Jr., Irwin Luckman, Richard C. Trudeau, David Pesonen, Pat O’Brien, and Robert Doyle. Each of these individuals has been responsible for directing the Park District into the future while upholding its legacy. In 2020, the East Bay Regional Park District hired as their successor, General Manager Sabrina Landreth. As the District continues to grow, so does the staff required to effectively provide access to natural parklands set aside for public use. Among the founding generations of Park District staff, there are many stories still to be told as well as preserved alongside the parklands they worked to maintain and operate. Focused on the acquisition, management, and preservation of natural and cultural resources, as well as serving important educational and recreational needs, the EBRPD has grown to become one of the largest metropolitan-area park districts in the United States.

Scope and Content of Collection

This collection documents the founding of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) from approximately the 1920s through the 1960s. It contains various types of records including reports, bills, master plans, correspondence, memos, minutes, resolutions, photographs and maps, histories, newspaper clippings, press releases, speeches, lectures, logbooks, project documents, magazines, and more. The range of dates for the material in the collection is 1865-2014 with the bulk being 1931-1937. Much of the collection is made up of copies, with photocopies accounting for a small portion of those, particularly in the newspaper clippings. Subjects in this collection include EBMUD land acquisition, the Olmsted/Hall report, Assembly Bill 1114, historical accounts authored by Elbert M. Vail, the campaign and effort to establish the Park District, the park opening ceremony on October 18, 1936, the Tilden Golf Course, the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, and Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects.

Indexing Terms

Nature conservation--California--San Francisco Bay Area
Environmentalism--California--San Francisco Bay Area--History
Recreation--California
United States. Work Progress Administration
Dornin, May, 1897-1992
French, Harold, 1878-1962
Hall, Ansel F. (Ansel Franklin), 1894-1962
McDuffie, Duncan, 1877-1951
Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1870-1957
Pardee, George C., 1857-1941
Sibley, Robert, 1881-1958
Vail, Elbert M., 1887-1979
Walpole, Richard E., 1911-1973

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