Alviso Adobe: Unique site needs boost in visibility | June 21, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - June 21, 2013

Alviso Adobe: Unique site needs boost in visibility

When the Alviso Adobe was restored and opened to the public five years ago, there was an expectation that this unique site that tells the story of California from its earliest human history would be one of the Tri-Valley's, if not the Bay Area's, best interpretive parks. Sadly, that hasn't happened and the $4.5 million project seems to be languishing, both in its appeal beyond Pleasanton and its relatively obscure location without any major promotional signs on the nearby freeways or even on Foothill Road where it is located.

Now the possible acquisition by the East Bay Regional Park District of the 150-acre Castleridge hillside behind the adobe may attract hikers to that section of the Pleasanton Ridge and to the Alviso Adobe Community Park. An agreement by Pleasanton and the regional district could make it a staging area at the start of the Castleridge trail, an easier climb up the ridge than other pathways. Both at the start and at the end of their journey, hikers could be provided with refreshments in an adobe canteen, one of many amenities the historic site needs to draw more visitors. As it is, there isn't even a kitchen sink that you think would have been included in the multi-million-dollar restoration. Pleasanton Naturalist Eric Nicholas, the sole caretaker of the adobe park, has to fill canteens for those enrolled in activities, classes and organized hikes from faucets in one of the two restrooms at the site.

The Alviso Adobe Community Park is a 7-acre park built around an adobe house constructed in 1854 by Francisco Alviso and is a rare surviving example of an early American adobe that was continuously in use until 1969. The building is registered as a California Historical Landmark. Construction of the park was initially planned to begin in 2000, but the city could not secure funding until 2007, when the project was finally begun. Besides the adobe, which is furnished as it would have been in the 1920s, the park contains a replica of an old dairy and interpretive displays of Ohlone Indian culture.

With the recession of 2007, programs, promotions and staffing that might have beefed up the adobe park were shelved along with other major Pleasanton projects. Since the $10 million Firehouse Arts Center opened in 2010, and until last month, capital improvement projects in Pleasanton have been frozen along with many other city expenditures. Two weeks ago, at the request of a citizens' group, the City Council agreed to put Alviso Adobe improvements back on its priority list, but with consideration not before 2015.

Still there are some actions that could be taken to add to the adobe's appeal. Modest weddings, poetry readings, outdoor musical events or a version of Shakespeare in the Park could be held there, with small fees paying for some improvements, notably a kitchen. Even a few goats or one or two head of cattle could make a visit to the park more realistic. The Cultural Arts Council has hosted several art shows at the site. These should be continued, with picnic tables added for families to lunch at with a panoramic view of Pleasanton and the valley below that is truly spectacular.

Restrictions against events were imposed when the adobe was opened at the insistence of homeowners across Foothill Road that feared heavy traffic into the adobe park and noise would adversely affect their neighborhoods. Protests even doomed the once-planned rebuilding of a silo that dominated the property when it was a dairy, a potential eyesore some said although it might have become a landmark for those trying to find the site. Still, what few major public activities have taken place have occurred without complaints and show that the park, both in its steep hillside location above Foothill and Eric Nicholas' insistence on peaceful gatherings, and its historical attractions have been good neighbors.

With the East Bay Regional Park District purchase of the adjoining Castleridge property, Pleasanton may now find that the $4.5 million spent on saving and restoring the adobe and creating the city's most unique public park was worth it.


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