COMMENTARY: Remembering Marilyn Kane

Jim Kane, couple's family honored at ceremony dedicating trail they built as gift to the city she loved

Marilyn Kane was passionate about trees, birds, trails and everything "open space," which is how she was honored Saturday at the dedication of the $650,000 Marilyn Murphy Kane Trail in Bernal Community Park.

The 1.1-mile trail, which extends west of I-680 along the Arroyo de la Laguna, is a gift of Jim Kane and the couple's three children--Tom, Bruce and Lisa Kane Walsh.

They shared the determination Marilyn had in keeping as much of the 318-acre Bernal Park as open space for the people of Pleasanton once the land was given to the city by developers Greenbriar Homes and associates, who paid $126 million for the entire 510-acre parcel that had been owned by the city and county of San Francisco since the 1930s.

As part of the purchase agreement, the developers were allowed to build 530 homes and apartments on the rest of the property with South Bay Development taking ownership of 39 of the acres for a future retail and office park complex.

Once acquired, the city set up task forces to determine how best to use the new parkland in the public's interest, and the suggestions flowed freely, from a cemetery to an amphitheater to a working 4-H farm.

Marilyn Kane stood her ground in insisting that this "field of dreams," as she liked to call it, stay just that, a place where folks of all ages could walk along heavily treed pathways, through meadows and grassland, and by gardens of colorful flowers and water elements. She touted the beauty of Lithia Park in Ashland, Ore. and other municipal parks that have been preserved largely uncluttered by buildings for the public's outdoor enjoyment. We saw her at these task force meetings, and even at public hearings and walking along downtown streets wearing a special "sandwich board" she had made with photos of Lithia and other parks that she used as models for Bernal.

Except for 50 acres now dedicated to sports fields, voters bought into Marilyn Kane's vision for Bernal as a grand central park for Pleasanton. The trail named for her will be a lasting tribute.

The three children suggested the gift of the trail to their father three years ago in the last days of their mother's life. They were together at a City Council meeting last year to formally present a check for $500,000 to pay for the trail on the Bernal site, where Marilyn frequently walked. After bids came in for the project, they added another $150,000 to complete the work. Theirs is the largest personal donation the city has ever been given.

Jim Kane, now 83, has trouble walking so he took a spin in his new electric scooter the other day, down the trail and memory lane. He found that the trail, which hugs the banks of the arroyo with as much as a 30-foot drop to the water below in places, has a large variety of black walnut trees and California Live and Valley oaks along the way. There are also waterfowl, ducks and geese, and he saw egrets and a Great Blue Heron as well as two kinds of hawks, a Cooper's hawk and a Red Shouldered Hawk, though he thinks there might be others. Several joggers passed him by, already making use of the trail, which is open to bicyclists and those pushing baby strollers.

Thrilled by the chance to see their mother remembered with a gift so close to her heart, Jim Kane was joined by all three children and their spouses and several of his seven grandchildren--all girls--and his sister Helen Koppe and her husband who drove here from Kirkland, Wash. to be part of the festivities.

It was a chance to meet and congratulate the Kanes whose family matriarch is now a permanent memory in Pleasnton and a reminder of what a dedicated individual can do to make our comunity ever better.

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