Adventure Playground 160 University Ave., in Shorebird Park. The story goes that in Europe after World War II a designer built a series of modern playgrounds. But the children continued, indeed preferred, to play in bombed-out buildings and to construct their own play equipment from the plentiful rubble and debris. Taking that cue, he designed the first adventure playground. This U.S. version offers a storage shed full of tools and recycled wood that children can use to build forts and clubhouses and other things, and then leave them up or tear them down when they are done. The playground also has a tire swing, climbing net, and fast-moving trolley hanging from a pulley. A more traditional play area is just outside the fence. Note that a reservation is required for groups of 5 or more, and adult supervision is required. Staff is there to keep the playground safe, and parents are there to keep the kids safe. Check ahead regarding rules.
Next door, in the Strawbale visitors center at the Shorebird Park Nature Center you’ll find information about that style of alternative building and samples of materials in action--Photovoltaics, heat-radiant floors, and a wind mill. This building also holds a 50-gallon salt-water tank and a 30-gallon fresh-water tank, plus exhibits on marine mammals, local birds, and problems with plastic in the marine environment. A new classroom next door holds two 180-gallon tanks, one with local bay waters life and the other with local native freshwater fishes. Between the two building is a new native plant garden designed to attract birds and butterflies. Free.
Nearby, at the bay end of University Avenue where the Berkeley Pier begins, is a sculpture depicting a bow-and-arrow-wielding Native American astride his horse. Artist Fred Fierstein is said to have placed it here himself in 1985 when he got tired of waiting for Berkeley politicians to decide to do it for him. He had offered “The Guardian” to the city at no cost, but after long deliberation it was rejected as too aggressive--not to mention that the animal appears to urinate when it rains. Berkeley residents then voted to keep it here, but their decision might not be final. See it now.
While you’re here, take a walk out on the Berkeley Municipal Pier. Originally it stretched out for 3 ½ miles; now you can walk about 3,000 feet. You’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view that takes in the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, San Francisco, Treasure Island, and Angel Island.