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Nevin Park Reopens Saturday

Our Neighbors: Park reopening, history converge

By Chris Treadway
West County Times

Posted: 01/28/2009 05:02:11 PM PST


History is in the details, and it is the small, everyday details that researchers want to uncover in compiling the history of life in the Iron Triangle, Coronado and Santa Fe neighborhoods of Richmond.

The three neighborhoods, a central but largely overlooked part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, are the focus of an effort started last year to gather the inside details of what life was like there before, during and after the war.

When Nevin Park celebrates its grand reopening Saturday, representatives from Project PRISM Preserve Richmond to Interpret and Support Memories will be there hoping to find some of those hidden details.

"We want people to open up their family albums and cupboards and bring photos, fliers, news clippings and other memorabilia" to the event, said Donna Graves, lead historian for Project PRISM. "It's better for people to bring more than less, (and) even if people don't have material to bring but have a story to tell, we welcome that."

Photos brought to the event will be returned after they are scanned by professional historians and copied for the Richmond Museum of History. While all photos are welcome, researchers in particular want images that include businesses, streets, schools, churches or civic organizations from 1970 or earlier, and any photos taken in Richmond during World War II.

"There's so much focus on the waterfront" for the national park, Graves said. "We need a way to focus on downtown and think about how the National Park Service can tell Richmond's story there."

Project PRISM, funded by a federal grant, will allow the city to survey and identify locations and buildings of historic significance in the three core neighborhoods and, just as importantly, compile memories and memorabilia of those who lived and worked there.

"This kind of history is generally not well-documented in history books," Graves said. "Going on a block-by-block basis to tell what happened during the war and before and after hasn't been done."

The project is ongoing and isn't confined to outreach at civic events. Graves said anyone with something to share can go online to www.ci.richmond.ca.us/projectprism or call 510-620-6704.

The Nevin Park celebration is an ideal event for Project PRISM to conduct outreach.

The grand opening will have games, activities, a petting zoo, food and refreshments, entertainment and more from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the park and community center between Nevin and Macdonald avenues and Fourth and Sixth streets.

"We're anticipating a fun-filled Saturday, just a lot of community fun," said Vincent Seymour, recreation program coordinator at the Nevin Community Center. "We're excited to reopen."

Saturday marks exactly a year since the 39-year-old park was officially closed with a New Orleans-style funeral celebration. The park was completely redesigned and renovated, and Saturday is the first step to making it the recreational asset it was always intended to be for the Iron Triangle and the larger community.

The park is a centerpiece of city efforts to revitalize the lower section of Macdonald Avenue and adjacent areas, which have seen a decline in criminal activity over the past year.

"It means a lot to the community," Vincent said. "It's a sigh of relief; it's a sign of new beginnings; it's a sign of change."

The park has been landscaped, with fruit and shade trees planted and two level lawn areas installed for recreational use, along with picnic and game tables, benches, lighting, water play features and state-of-the-art play equipment. Play areas employ an eco-friendly surface made of recycled tires.

Inside the community center, the Recreation Department will take the opportunity to showcase its programs with handouts and a PowerPoint presentation of highlights.

The Richmond Museum of History in the former Carnegie library building at the corner of the park will be part of the festivities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Albany Big Band will play swing music in the museum courtyard, weather permitting, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by "Nostalgic Reflections," a historical fashion show. Inside, the museum's Seaver Gallery will host the photographic exhibit "Business, Billiards, and Basketball: a visual history of the Nevin Park area."

Also on display will be mock-ups of the interpretive historic location markers that will be installed on Macdonald Avenue as part of the city's Memories of Macdonald project.

Admission to the museum is free Saturday, and food and refreshments will be served. For details, call 510-235-7387 or visit richmondmuseumofhistory.org.

Reach Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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