The area is fenced off, and pedestrians are being redirected around the construction. Ali Schwarz, project manager for Oakland Public Works, told Hoodline that the area will likely be off-limits for about six weeks.
The east side of the thumb south of Grand Avenue, looking north. | Photo: Matt Savener/Hoodline
The improvements are part of Measure DD, a 2002 bond measure that set aside $198 million for work at the estuary. Construction on the west side of the lake has been ongoing, with visible progress along Lakeside Drive between the Lake Chalet and Grand Avenue.
Improvements taking shape include a new pedestrian promenade and lakeside pathway, a new children's play area, and rain gardens with drought-tolerant landscaping.
Schwarz said the west-side construction hit a delay when design revisions were made to the buffered bike lanes along Lakeside. The plan now includes a fully protected two-way cycle track with a median (as opposed to Telegraph Avenue's bollards-and-paint cycle track) between Lakeside and 19th Street and Harrison and 21st Street.
"The city is providing protected bike lanes whenever possible," Schwarz said.
The once-tangled intersection of Harrison Street, Lakeside Drive, and 20th Street will be calmed to offer pedestrians safer access to the lake from Snow Park with a single crossing. Snow Park will also see all-new green areas and renovated restrooms.
"You build it and they come," Schwarz said. "The city has spent a lot of money upgrading around the lake, and now we have thousands more people coming to the lake."
Photo: Matt Savener/Hoodline
Schwarz said the city also plans to continue cycle tracks from 21st and Harrison around Grand Avenue up to Bay Place and its Whole Foods. The idea is for "cycle tracks all the way around the lake someday."
Past improvements under DD include the amphitheater, pedestrian bridge, new bathrooms, and redesigned 12th Street on the southern tip of the lake; the park around the Lake Chalet restaurant and boathouse; and the improvements around the Lakeside Park boathouse and Adams Point.
Schwarz said full completion for all lake improvement projects is projected for spring-summer 2019. The last project slated to be funded by DD is Estuary Park at the mouth of the channel exiting Lake Merritt.
The renovation of the Children's Fairyland entrance is moving along, as well, with the new twisting sidewalk entrance open to pedestrians. Schwarz said the project is about 85% complete.
Workers are installing landscaping plants and new drainage; final touches, including fabricated stainless steel music-clef handrails and handmade tile on the new stairway, won't be done until early April. A ribbon-cutting might coincide with the annual Fairyland gala on May 30.
Photo: Matt Savener/Hoodline
Observant lake visitors may have noticed signs recently placed around Lakeside Park that urge visitors to "limit disturbance" because of an effort to attract black-crowned night herons.
Their traditional nesting site, a cluster of trees downtown, has been mostly bulldozed to make way for new development. The effort to attract herons to the lake--which includes decoy herons and recorded heron calls--is part of the development's impact mitigation.