History of Oakland Parks and Recreation

For more than 75 years, we’ve worked together with communities to build a better Oakland by offering activities for the whole family. With well over 100 years in service, OPYRD operates multiple facilities, parks, fields, and courts throughout the City of Oakland.


1909- First meeting of Playground Commission. - $600 allocated for vacation program at two school grounds. - Playground Division established as part of Public Works Department. - First meeting of Park Commission
1910- First municipal playgrounds opened at deFremery, Bushrod and Bayview (Raimondi). - Agreement reached with Board of Education for year-round use of school grounds. - $1,000,000 (one million) bond issue for purchase of lands around Lake Merritt.
1911- City Charter revised and Board of Playground Directors made an independent body empowered to operate a department.
1912- Mosswood, first of the city's social centers, opened. - Oakland Municipal Band created - organizing Director Paul Steindorff.
1914- Boating at Lake Merritt placed under Recreation Department; two boathouses opened. - Oakland Auditorium completed.
1917- Joaquin Miller Park acquired.
1918- Edoff Bandstand built in Lakeside Park.
1919- Industrial Athletic Association formed; first Christmas Pageant presented.
1921- City Charter amended, allowing Recreation Department to operate summer camps outside city limits; Tuolumne and Feather River family camps opened in 1921 and 1924.
1922- First of three settlement houses, Alexander Community House, deeded to the city.
1923- Bowling Greens built in Lakeside Park.
1932- Lions Pool and city tennis courts placed under Recreation Department. - Oakland Municipal Rose Garden established.
1934- Oakland's first lighted playground at Wolfenden.
1939- Arroyo Viejo and Montclair playgrounds constructed.
1941- Woodminster Theater completed.
1943- Sidney Snow Zoo-in Snow Park.
1945- Bond issue of $1,023,000 to extend and modernize recreation facilities approved by the people.
1948- Senior citizen program and handicapped children's camp started. - Trial and Show Gardens established at Lakeside Park. - Sequoia Lodge completed. - Sequoia Horse Arena in Joaquin Miller Park completed.
1949- North Oakland Recreation Center opened. - Studio One for arts and crafts established. - Four new swimming pools opened. - Mosswood playground redesigned and lighted.
1950- Elizabeth Sanborn Clubhouse dedicated. - Fairyland in Lakeside Park dedicated. - Woodminster Light Opera Series created. - Peralta Park created.
1951- City Charter amended to change name of Board of Playground Directors to Recreation Commission.
1954- Remodeled Sailboat House. - Mosswood Center and Live Oak Pool opened. - Workreation Program created. - Rotary Science Center dedicated. - Holiday Decoration Shows established.
1956- Arroyo Viejo and Montclair Recreation Center buildings completed.
1957- Associated Agencies project started with close cooperation among police, recreation, schools, county probation office and California Youth Authority. - Knowland Park acquired (formerly Durant Park); Oakland Zoo established in Knowland Park. - Ranger Station in Joaquin Miller Park dedicated. - Geodesic Dome, Lakeside Park, constructed.
1958- Brookfield Center and Arroyo Viejo Children's Theater opened. - San Antonio Park rededication. - Franklin Plaza dedicated. - Leona casting pools dedicated.
1959- Dimond Recreation Center and modernized Lions Pool opened. - Garden Center dedicated. - Leona Lodge dedicated. - Lafayette Square rededication for senior citizens. - Rotary Camp dedicated. - Morcom Amphitheater dedicated.
1960- New Poplar Recreation Center opened. - Junior Theater organized. - Japanese Garden at Garden Center dedicated. - Montclair Golf Course completed.
1961- Chabot and Pinto Recreation Areas purchased and developed. - Franklin Recreation Center opened. - Mosswood playground for senior men relocated. - Community Orchestra organized. - Sally Rutherford Thales Memorial Fountain, Lakeside Park, dedicated.
1962- Brookfield Recreation Center Multipurpose Room complete. - Nine-hole par 3 golf course completed at Lake Chabot Golf Course. - Youell Field completed and placed in service. - Department shared in Ford Foundation Interagency Project. - Bushrod playground renovated. - George Hammer Amphitheater at Montclair completed. - Dunsmuir House acquired.
1963- Tassafaronga playground completed. - City wide Carnival of Drama started in cooperation with Children’s Fairyland. - Whitton Handicapped Teen Club organized. - Brookdale Lodge and Shafer Field dedicated. - Designation of Abbey in Joaquin Miller Park. - Lake Merritt Wild Duck Refuge registered as a National Historic Landmark.
1964- The Oakland Children's Chorus organized. - Trailblazers, adult handicapped group, organized.
1965- Oakland Civic Theater organized. - New kiln rooms at Studio One and Two completed. - Owen Jones Field opened. - Hellman playground opened. - New clubroom added at Poplar Recreation Center. - Department pioneered first neighborhood facilities grant application in East Bay. - Voluntary recreation service organizations chartered by Commission.
1966- Youth Participation in Community Action program initiated with State Youth Commission. - Lockhaven Recreation Center opened in Lockwood Housing Project. - Children's Folk Dance Festival started. - Sheffield Recreation Center completed. - All family camping located at Feather River; Children's camps at Tuolumne.
1967- Lew F. Galbraith Golf Course completed. - Harrison Railroad Park dedicated. - New Sequoia Lodge completed. - San Antonio Villa program started.
1968- YPICA Program sponsored by Downtown Oakland Christian Parish. - New Careers program initiated with Federal New Careerist Agency. - Chinese motif playground completed at Lincoln Square. - Davie Stadium tennis courts reconstructed. - Brookfield baseball and lighted softball fields completed. - Mosswood Home refurbished in cooperation with Junior Center of Arts and Science. - Tassafaronga Recreation Center completed.
1969- Parks and Recreation Departments merge: new Office of Parks and Recreation organized, encompassing Parks, Recreation and Visitor Services. - Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission held first meeting. - Port-A-Pools introduced. - Burckhalter recreation area completed. - Park Boulevard Recreation Center renamed Francis Marion Smith Recreation Center. - Senior Aide program developed with Oakland Council of Churches. - Montclair tennis courts completed. - deFremery Recreation Center interior renovated. - Chabot-Rockridge tennis courts opened. - Lake Merritt Channel Park and recreation project completed.
1970- Columbian Gardens Recreation Project dedicated. - Tassafaronga Neighborhood Center Gym dedicated. - Lakeside Park California Spring Garden Show introduced.
1971- Montclair Recreation Center craft rooms completed. - Hellman Park-Dunsmuir House Corporation created Land and Water Conservation grant received for Madison Square Park. - Clubhouses opened for summer recreation at San Antonio, Sanborn and Brookdale Parks.
1972- Estuary Park dedicated. - Grove-Shafter /MacArthur Interchange playground completed. - Chabot playground completed. - Dunsmuir House accepted for National Register of Historic Places. - Oakland Neighborhood Basketball League initiated.
1973- Madison Square Park dedicated. - Knowland Park site deeded to city by State. - California Spring Garden Show moved to Dunsmuir House. - Helen MacGregor Mall dedicated.
1975- Manzanita Recreation Center completed.
1976- Central Recreation Area opened. - Raimondi Field renovated.
1977- Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center dedicated. - Marston Campbell Park completed.
1978- Peralta Hacienda declared State Historical Landmark. - Maxwell Park and Training Center opened. - Carter Recreation Center opened. - Shepherd Canyon Park acquired.
1979- San Antonio Villa renovated. - Grove-Shafter Park completed. - Concordia Campus acquired.
1980- Oak Park opened. - Wade Johnson Park constructed. - Rainbow Recreation Center dedicated. - Commencement of redwood reforestation at Joaquin Miller Park.
1981- Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation incorporated as a non-profit organization whose purpose is to develop ways to support Oakland's parks and recreation system. - Phase I of Shepherd Canyon Park completed. - Phase I of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park completed.
1982- Art Festival at Lake Merritt started. - Disabled Persons Boating Program started. - Sanborn Park renovation completed. - Tennis court lighting installed at San Antonio Park. - San Pablo Avenue and Fruitvale commercial area landscaping completed.
1983- Raimondi Clubhouse rebuilt. - Coliseum Gardens Park completed. - Brookdale tennis court rehabilitated. - Lake Merritt Channel Park completed. - 51st Street landscaping completed. - Rotary Natural Science Center renovated. - Special Populations Project, Lakeside Park.
1984- Vantage Point Park completed; Caldecott Park completed. - deFremery swimming pool renovated. - Arroyo Viejo Park renovation completed. - Peralta House restored. - Bushrod Recreation Center building rehabilitation completed.
1985-1986- Allendale Rec Center renovated. - Youth Advisory Commission established. - Street median restoration project begins.
1987-1990- Herbye K. White director. - Youth Services division added. - Dept. reorganized into operating divisions -Recreation, Parks, Youth & Administration. - Recreation Division reorganized into three districts to improve service to the community. - Fremont & Temescal pools renovated. - Curt Flood Sports Center dedicated. - OPR receives Lucky-A's ballpark renovation grant for Arroyo Viejo. - A's-Shappell Industries Youth Baseball Camp Opens. - Outdoor education program established. - Children's Fairyland turns 40. - Oakland 52-Mile Scenic Drive project initiated. - Holiday tree recycling programs begins at Joaquin Miller. - Tree division modernized with new aerial lift trucks. - Sequoia and Leona Lodges become wheelchair accessible. - Open space parklands unit and city-wide youth sports program created.
1992- Redwood Heights Community Recreation Center and Brookfield (Ira Jinkins) Community Recreation Center open new facilities.
1993- Oakland is recognized as an All-America City.
1994- Parks and Recreation initiates development of the Community Gardening Program.
1995- Tassafaronga Recreation Center opens a new gym adjacent to the East Oakland recreation center.
1999- Poplar Community Recreation Center opens a new facility in West Oakland. Poplar Community Recreation Center rebuilt with Measure K funds. - Rainbow Recreation Center's basketball court is renovated by the Makin' Hoops Program sponsored by the Golden State Warriors.
2000- Bushrod Community Recreation Center opens a new facility in North Oakland. Bushrod Community Recreation Center rebuilt with Measure K funds. - Brookdale Recreation Center's Basketball Courts are renovated by the Makin' Hoops Program sponsored by the Golden State Warriors.
2001- Coca Cola Contract Generates $6.2 Million for City of Oakland for 10 Years. - New OPR Website Wins California Park and Recreation Society Award of Distinction/Excellence. - OPR Launches RecWare On-line Registration, Facility Reservation & Touchtone Providing Citizens with the Opportunity to Access Programs and Services (via the internet, in person, or on the phone). - Allendale Recreation Center's basketball court is renovated by the Makin' Hoops Program sponsored by the Golden State Warriors and Bank of America. - Sega of America, Inc sponsors the "Sega March Mania Tournament" which provides four generous scholarships worth $10,000 per winning participant, to benefit the youths scholastic future. - H.O.O.P sponsored by the Golden State Warriors provides professional athletic basketball game tickets and Thanksgiving turkeys to participates at Rainbow Recreation Center.
2002- Oakland Parks and Recreations Website Wins California Parks & Recreation Society Award of Excellence. - Allendale Recreation Center's basketball court is renovated by the Makin' Hoops Program sponsored by the Golden State Warriors and the Good Tidings Foundation. - City of Oakland turns 150 years old. - Foothill Meadows Park is renamed Cesar Chavez Park.
2003- FM Smith Recreation Center's basketball court is renovated by the Makin' Hoops Program sponsored by the Golden State Warriors and the Good Tidings Foundation. - City of Oakland turns 150 years old. - Splash Pad Park is renovated.
2004- The Office of Parks and Recreation Administrative Office moves to 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza. - Office of Parks and Recreation turns 145 years old. - Oakland Parks and Recreation Wins California Parks & Recreation Society Award of Excellence in the following categories: Best Single Brochure, Special Program Brochure and Marketing Theme Campaign. They also received the Award of Merit for Recreation & Community Services Youth Development category. - US Olympic Trials for Canoe and Kayak Flatwater Sprint are held at Lake Merritt. The finalists are selected to participate in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center 7701 Krause Avenue

The original Arroyo Viejo site of 16.43 acres containing the Domoto family homes was a site of a Japanese nursery. Between 1936 and 1939, the site was developed by WPA and opened for neighborhood use in 1939. Following World War II, approximately four more acres were added to the area through a 40-year lease with the Board of Education. McConnell Sports Field located on the leased land. It is used by the public schools for inter-school athletic events. Castlemont High School plays its home baseball game here. The nearby field house was erected in 1956 to serve the adjacent playground and outdoor field areas. In addition to the Center, a unique award winning Children’s Theatre was at a cost of $11,500 but was subsequently destroyed by fire in 1970 and not replaced. A lighted playground and parking lot were added in 1957. Funds for the barbecue area in the patio were donated by the East Oakland Rotary Club. In 1960 and 1979, major arson-set fires resulted in extensive damage to the main center and studio wings of the complex respectively. Also at this site is a childcare center housed in a building leased to the Board of Education by the City.

Funding The present center/studio building - constructed and furnished in 1965 at a cost of $180,000 from federal and local funds. The original park area was purchased from the Central Bank of Oakland in 1935. The federal government through its W.P.A. programs developed the park site (1936-39).

Site Information
Center Building's Square Footage14.457
Building Room DescriptionCenter/social hall Activity/game room Kitchen Offices (2) Enclosed outdoor patio/barbecue area Lavatories
StudioPottery/kiln room Photo lab room Lapidary room Jewelry room Arts and Crafts room Conference room/office Multi-purpose room
Outdoor FacilitiesFootball/soccer field Baseball/softball fields (2) Basketball courts (5) Tennis courts (4) Tot lots (2) Auto parking lots (2) Picnic areas Day camp site
Bushrod Recreation Center 560 - 59th Street

Opened in June 1910, Bushrod became the city's second municipal playground. A field house built on the site was Oakland's first recreation building and remained standing until 1958, when it was raised in anticipation of current playground improvements. Bushrod is situated on land given to the city in 1904 by Dr. Bushrod Washington James, a Philadelphia writer of verse and retired army surgeon, who purchased the North Oakland property by proxy. The present recreation center was erected in 1947 as an experiment in building construction. Thc pre-fab construction was completed in 90 days at the low average cost of $4.37 per square feet. During 1961, a program renovation occurred, with major improvements made in the outdoor facilities and a new entrance added to the west side near the lighted parking lot. The area between the center and Washington Elementary School, formerly occupied by the then Recreation Department Shops, was turfed and lighted. Three lighted tennis courts, a lighted asphalt basketball and other court games area were completed. At that time, two of the latest ideas in tot lots were constructed whose equipment had such names as Lilliputian, Woods, Space Station, Tot House, Cliff Climber and Wing Ding, all suggesting fun play. This equipment was especially designed for safety and self-directed activities. Funding Current center and outside improvements - city monies.

Site Information
Center Building's Square Footage9316
Building Room DescriptionGymnasium (90' x 50’) Club rooms (2) Craft room Kitchen Office Restrooms with showers Table tennis alcove and storeroom
Outdoor FacilitiesFootball/soccer field Baseball fields (2) Softball field Basketball courts (4) Tennis courts (3) Tot lots (2) Hard court game area
deFremery Recreation Center 1651 Adeline Street

This was Oakland's first municipal playground and is the major community recreation center in West Oakland. The playground opened in June 1910, and served as a neighborhood family center. The clubhouse was used as headquarters for the City WPA Recreation Service Project during the late 1930’s. It was dedicated as a Hospitality House for servicemen on December 16, 1941. In August 1942, servicemen leased the clubhouse to the National USO for use. The USO renovated and improved the clubhouse, adding the present social hall. Under the supervision of the Oakland Recreation Department, the clubhouse reopened in 1948 as a settlement house type of community center, with a resident director.

Funding The center and park site were purchased from the Leon deFremery family by the City Council in 1907 for $135,000.

Site Information
Center Building's Square Footage9842
Building Room DescriptionSocial hall and small stage Kitchen Pool/game room Meeting room Office Restrooms Plus several upstairs meeting and activity rooms
Outdoor FacilitiesRedeveloped field house (1950) Football/soccer area (lighted) Softball diamond (lighted) Basketball courts (4) (lighted) Tennis courts (3) (lighted) Handball courts (3) Tot lots (2) Swimming pool (lighted)
Dimond Recreation Center 3860 Hanly Road

Prior to 1850, the land on which Dimond Park and Recreation Center are located belonged to the famous Peralta family. In 1850, the Hugh Dimond family bought the land from the Peraltas. In 1879, Hugh Dimond built a playhouse for his son out of the original adobe bricks from the Peralta house. The site of this playhouse is where the now existing "Boy Scout Hut" stands (note: The structure has been damaged by fire and is pending repairs). In 1917, the City of Oakland Parks Department purchased 12 acres of land along the Sausal Creek to be used as a park site. In 1929, Lions Pool was constructed in the park and subsequently remodeled in 1959. The modern type Dimond Recreation Center was opened in September 1957 in the wooded ravine adjacent to the Lions Pool site. In June 1955, the development of Dimond Recreation Center was spearheaded by an active neighborhood committee interested in, community improvement with a specific desire that a center building be erected which would provide program facilities for all age groups. The building rooms overlook Lions Pool and Dimond Park. Its unique design provides a versatile downstairs area which serves for five months of the year as a shower and locker room for Lions Pool and for seven months as the center's teen game room.

Funding Donations from neighborhood community groups, Dimond Merchants Association, and other local organizations plus city funds.

Site Information
Center Building's Square Footage Includes Recreation Center and dressing rooms.5209
Building Room DescriptionSocial hall Arts and Crafts Room Teen/locker room (downstairs) Kitchen Restrooms Large deck area
Outdoor FacilitiesBasketball Court Tot lots (2) Tennis courts (2) Swimming pool Picnic/barbecue areas Turf game areas Restrooms

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