Liberating Change on this Urban Hike through Berkeley
Cesar Chavez sets the tone for this urban hike in Berkeley. Despite the scrapping of old homes, the transition from old to new, and the attempt to keep Berkeley from morphing into the something it’s not, the Berkeley neighborhood has always been about people. Berkeley’s Tennyson business district, the neighborhood’s heartbeat, screams out to the locals to maintain Berkeley as a cool, hip, interesting place to be. The veritable Feral anchors the shopping district, making sure to provide local-oriented events and invites for people to hang.
Where’s Berkeley? It’s a rectangularly shaped neighborhood with the boundaries of I70, W 38th Ave, Sheridan and Federal.
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The Times, They Are a’Changin
From Cesar Chavez’ workers’ park, where moms drink chai and lattes while babies play-date, up the business district of Tennyson, and on into Rocky Mountain Lake Park, transition is a foot. The closer to Tennyson Street you get, the more home scrapes and rebuilds you’ll found. The buzz of Berkeley balances the old with the new on your amble toward Berkeley’s outskirts.
Cesar Chavez Park, named after the American labor leader and civil rights activist, oozes with thoughts about workers rights. You’ll find murals along the outer perimeter of the park and stamped concrete with sayings such as, “The fight is never about grapes or lettuce…” You’ll even find a bust of Chavez overlooking Tennyson.
In 1966, Corky Gonzalez founded the Crusade for Justice, sparking the Chicano movement right here in Denver. Together with Cesar Chavez, Paco Sanchez, and La Alma’s Benevidez family, the world started to listen to the Hispanic community. There are at least five places in Denver to learn about its history by foot; Cesar Chavez Park (see video), La Alma/Lincoln Park, Corky Gonzalez Library, Paco Sanchez Park (see video) and Columbus/La Raza Park (see video).
The small but mighty Cesar Chavez park has basketball, bocce and soccer fields plus ping pong tables and a great playground for kids.
Two Lakes and a Dog Park, Too
You’ll head up Tennyson to 47th, and meander along Rocky Mountain Lake while waving hello to Berkeley Lake and its dog park to the west. Berkeley Lake has always attracted the neighborhood. John Walker originally used the lake to irrigate alfalfa, and eventually a race track around the lake popped up. By 1906, the City purchased the property, adding it to George Kessler’s Denver Park and Parkway System. From there, the city’s first public golf course appeared, cobblestone restrooms and a bathhouse were added, and the William H Smiley Branch of Denver Public Library opened. In 1927, the park got a bit of a face lift and S.R. DeBoer rerouted the roads to limit commuter traffic through the park. Cedar, oak, pine, birch and cottonwood provided shade for lake goers, and ultimately, after I70 settled the northern boundary of the park, it entered the National Register of Historic Places.
From original homes with bikes piled in their front yards, to newly minted, tall duplexes, the co-mingling of tastes and styles jump from every corner. Berkeley is on the move.
If It Isn’t Nailed Down…
Towards the end of this walk, you’ll come upon old bungalows with new facades. The giant Skinner Middle School shouts from the past, and new builds on top of old foundations exemplify Berkeley’s desire to blend the old with the new. Not one home is safe from rapid change coming this neighborhood’s way.
And Character Persists
None the less, many signs of how Berkeley is adapting to change come from examples like the Oriental Theater. Adjusting to the demands of its new neighbors, the Oriental’s sign always expresses what’s happening in the neighborhood. You’ll find locals telling jokes, shows, burlesque shoes, movies, and family entertainment. Every night something changes.
Yet on your way back to the start of your walk, you’ll come across a pair of homes, probably from the 40s, built by the same builder. With matching rear turrets, they each still maintain their own personalities, adjusting and growing with the times. One has turned into a duplex with fancy roofing, while the other continues as a single family home. Both fit nicely in the neighborhood, while still maintaining their personalities and originality.
The route (click for interactive map):
Start at Cesar Chavez Park, whose closest address is 4131 Utica Street. Walk east through the park, stopping to look at the bust of Chavez and the interesting quotes stamped into the concrete walls. Continue north, left, on Tennyson. Enjoy the quaint, independently owned shops.
At W 44th Ave, take a right. Admire the Oriental Theater, then take a left on Stuart St. Continue north to W 46th Ave, take a quick left on W 46th Ave and then a quick right on Tennyson. Notice Berkeley Park to the left with its lake and its dog park.
Take a right on W 47th Ave, enjoying a sidewalk-ed amble through the neighborhood. Notice how the interstate runs right along the north side of the neighborhood. While walking we could barely hear it. Continue along 47th until you get to Rocky Mountain Lake Park. Walk along the edge of the lake, stopping at the original bathrooms, if necessary.
Take a right on Grove St, heading south through the neighborhood. Enjoy the variety of homes and their different ages and styles. At W 40th Ave, take a right, passing the giant Skinner Middle School built in the early 1900s. Also notice the two homes on the south side of the street with matching turrets.
Take a right on Perry and then a quick left on W 42nd Ave. Continue until you return to Cesar Chavez Park.
Liberating Change in Berkeley and Supporting DenverByFoot
If you’ve enjoyed this walk, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family, or even along during our lock down.
Finally, please support Denver By Foot by purchasing Chris Englert’s books, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Discovering Denver Parks. Thank you so much!
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See you on the trail!