Open letter to ARPD

The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter addressed to Alameda Recreation and Parks Director (ARPD) Amy Wooldridge.

Ms. Wooldridge:

I have lived near Jackson Park since 1988 and have long been an admirer of the Clark Memorial Bench. Recently, I have been researching the bench’s history and getting together a citizens group to support the effort to repair and restore it. This group includes Park Avenue residents Betsy Mathieson and James and Mary Manning, all of whom spoke at the March 13 Alameda Recreation and Park Commission meeting.

We were all very surprised when the bench was painted on Saturday (particularly in light of the color change). I understand that this is probably just a Band-Aid effort to forestall further deterioration and applaud the efforts of the Latter Day Saints community service group that pitched in to help. If bench is saved from demolition, it may be a good idea to poll the residents of Park Avenue as to what their color choice would be.  

In the meantime, I’m trying to find out what the original color was. Knowing what month it was installed would be helpful in cutting down my time at the microfilm machine going through a year of daily newspapers for a description. Please let me know if you have any information about what month the bench was installed.

In any event, I am in favor of the repair and restoration of the bench and believe that a fundraising campaign to support this effort is long overdue. I spoke to Bill Sonneman and have been emailing back and forth with Bill Delaney about ways in which this might be accomplished.

Delaney believes we should wait until the city decides what it is going to do, but I believe that, without the option of drawing upon donated funds, the city’s decision will be based on fewer options and be less satisfactory than if funds were already being raised.  

I suggest that fundraising can be done through two channels: an Indiegogo account, which I would be happy to set up, monitor, and maintain, and an account at a local bank where those who did not feel comfortable using credit cards on the Internet could send donations by cash and check. I have spoken to Dawna Dowdell at Bank of Marin and she is assisting me exploring this option.

I would also love to involve high school students in the effort. Sonneman tells me that, if the city approves repair and restoration of the bench over demolition, he will assist me in setting that up. 

In my research, I uncovered the fact that Isabelle Clark was “worthy matron” of the Alameda Order of the Eastern Star in 1902 and one of its charter members. Her death in 1924 was front page news and her funeral was held at the Masonic temple. I have notified the Masons of this fact and hope they will be interested in supporting the restoration effort. 

I am also reaching out to the Native Sons of the Golden West to see if they would be willing to place a plaque at the restored bench site, explaining how the bench came to be and what “In Memory of My Dumb Friends” really means. 

— Denise Shelton