A student at Berkeley’s , seven year-old Maude Mervin is readying herself for the third grade. With just a few weeks of summer left, she’s hitting the local park scene hard, travelling across town and back, with friends in tow, to squeeze out the last few drops of summer fun.
Hanging upside down on the monkey bars, her platinum hair swinging with the motion of her play, Maude Mervin exudes a joyful glee, her shining smile and sunny disposition flashing out across the play yard at Live Oak Park like an emergency beacon. Maude took a breather from the horseplay to drop the down low on her 5 favorite parks in Berkeley.
Cordornices Park, a Berkeley mainstay, ranks high on Maude’s list. “Well, it has the best slide anywhere,” Mervin explained, with a serious air. “If you use cardboard, you can go even faster.” The only problem, as Mervin sees it, is the crowds. “Sometimes you have to wait in a long line, she bemoaned. Then brightening again, she added, “But it’s always worth it!”
The next park on Mervin’s list is Live Oak Park. Close to her school and extracurricular activities, Maude enjoys the easy access. “I take tennis lesson here and if we come early, my mom lets me play at the park,” she said. “They have a really fun climbing structure with a twisty slide and swings too.” With its gently rolling lawns and shaded pathways, Live Oak Park is a perfect picnic spot as well. “We like to sit on the grass and have snacks,” Mervin remarked.
Having a frisky young dog, Mervin knows a thing or two about the local dog parks and praises Ohlone Dog Park for its canine offerings. “We take my dog, Harley, to this park so he can run around and be crazy with other dogs,” Mervin said, laughing. “They jump all over each other and chase each other around.” Doggy manners, however, can often be lacking as Mervin was quick to warn. “Sometimes there is a mean dog that barks or growls at Harley and we have to leave.”
Right next door to the dog park, straddling a large expanse of lawn, is one of Mervin’s favorite climbing structures in Berkeley. The giant geodesic dome, a challenging rope climbing structure, provides endless fun for Mervin and her buddies. “Ohlone has this amazing ropey thing that you can climb up and sit inside of,” Mervin recalled, her eyes widening with excitement. “It’s sooo fun — really, really fun.”
When Mervin wants a change of scenery, she asks her mom to drive her to La Loma Park, a tiered recreational area perched high atop the hill in North Berkeley. “It has this cool spinning thing you can grab onto and it feels like you’re flying,” Mervin explained, motioning with her hands for emphasis. “And my friends and I like to ride the little cars down the hill. We race and try not to tip over,” she added. “The only thing I don’t like about this park, though, is that the monkey bars are too high,” Mervin cautioned. “It’s hard to drop down. It hurts sometimes when you land the wrong way.”
As summer draws to a close and the last few precious vacation days remain vacant, plan a visit to one of Maude Mervin’s 5 favorite parks in Berkeley. Pack a picnic, stretch out on the grass, and watch the clouds move across the sky. As Mervin herself remarked, “Really, any park is a good park.”