• Jefferson Square Park
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    Jefferson Square Park located between 6th and 7th and MLK and Jefferson Street, is flanked by majestic Grande Flora magnolia trees and boasts several large playing fields. Longtime residents recall a constant hum of activity here. But today, the most prominent sound is the Grove Shafter Freeway, which roars above the southern end. The Recreation Center has been closed since the 70's, and the park seems desolate much of the time. Few Oakland residents could tell you where Jefferson Square Park is; even less know the park used to be the vibrant hub of a community with Portuguese, Irish and African American roots.

    In the 1970s downtown Oakland was drastically impacted by the construction of freeways, public transit lines, and eminent domain policies that destroyed blocks of historic Victorian houses. The kids who went to the now closed St. Mary’s School across the street used the park as their playground. With the sudden disappearance of the neighborhood, the park became severely underutilized.

    But there are some park regulars, and neighbors told us we should meet Boone. "I started coming here back in 1948 and met a lot of people in the park, when there were still people living around here," laughed Boone, a basketball mentor for neighborhood kids for the past 60 years. Boone (no one knows his first name), a former longshoreman, plays 'trickster ball' in Jefferson's court every day from four to six pm. The only day you won’t see him here is Fridays, his 'family day'.

    Changes are afoot for this park: the city has plans for a major park renovation. After numerous community meetings, the neighbors decided the first step should be a dog park, which will take the place of the defunct Rec Center.

    Downtown Oakland, CA


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