Pleasanton Weekly

Column - March 28, 2008

Remembering Marilyn Kane

by Jeb Bing

Many of us who never knew Marilyn Kane personally remember her affectionately as the "sandwich board lady," the enthusiastic environmentally-focused individual who probably had more influence than anyone on the City Council's decision to develop the Bernal property as a public park. Now we know more about Marilyn, who died of cancer in November 2006, thanks to her loving husband Jim and their three children: sons Bruce and Tom and daughter Lisa Kane Walsh. They were together at a City Council meeting earlier this month to formally present a check for $500,000 to pay for a trail on the Bernal site, where Marilyn frequently walked. The family promised another $300,000 check in a few months once the money can be pulled out of a trust fund. Together, this is the largest personal donation the city has ever been given.

There were tears all around at the council meeting as Jim Kane talked about his wife, who on the night she died, with her family at her side, urged them to continue her campaign to preserve Bernal as open space with trails for hikers, like herself. It's a passion she's had for the 510-acre site since 1963 when Jim and Marilyn moved here, and she applauded the gift of 318 acres free of charge to the city for public use by the developers who built homes and apartments on the rest. She loved open space, especially large expanses of land that were left free of structures and open to the public. Once the city had its own Bernal acreage, she lobbied frequently at task force and council meetings to keep Bernal an open space park. She spoke out against early development plans that called for buildings and "things" (as she put it), afraid that special interests were about to clutter up her dream of turning Bernal into a centrally-located park with natural landscape and trails for all to enjoy.

Jim Kane said that Marilyn's favorite was Lithia Park in Ashland, Ore. It was a place they always stopped on trips to the Pacific Northwest. On one of these, Marilyn took a batch of photos which she pasted on a sandwich board and, placing it on her shoulders, stood up at several town hall meetings on the future of Bernal to ask that it be turned into Pleasanton's own Lithia Park. We saw her at planning, council and other public meetings, even walking down Main Street to talk about her vision with passers-by. In the end, with the help of then Mayor Tom Pico and task force chairwoman Jennifer Hosterman and other Bernal Park advocates such as Kurt Kummer of the Parks and Recreation Commission, Marilyn's ideas were adopted and the park she envisioned is what's being planned for Bernal today.

Jim Wolfe, the city's director of Parks and Community Services, has worked closely with Jim Kane in planning the Marilyn Kane trail to make sure it follows as closely as possible the route she liked to walk. It will be a 10-foot-wide pathway with three vista points near the Arroyo de la Laguna and terminating close to Bernal Avenue, where there will be a staging area, parking lot and water. It will be paved for the ease of strollers, wheelchairs, those with walkers and normal hikers, with an additional 2-foot section alongside of softer composition for joggers, with a sign somewhere along the way to remind all of us of Marilyn's passion for Bernal and her family's generosity to the city she loved.

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