Take a walk in the park
- August 21, 2006
Afghanistan meets the Hayward Hills each Sunday at Garin Regional Park when dozens of Afghans gather to fly kites competitively.
Park Supervisor Ron Mueller said hundreds of Afghans have been coming to Garin each Sunday afternoon for 10 years to battle person-to-person and kite-to-kite. The number of kite fliers grew so large that they began to get in the way of other park visitors, so much so that the park established a field strictly for the kite enthusiasts.
"I guess the national pastime in Afghanistan is competitive kite flying," Mueller said. "It's really interesting, you come out on a Sunday afternoon and see all these different-colored kites floating above the field."
During the competition, kite fliers vigorously try to cut strings from their competitors' kites and collect them once they fall to the ground. The spirited competitions are described in this year's Freshman Convocation book, The Kite Runner. At one point there were hundreds of members of the Afghan community competing each week, Mueller said, and the park still typically gets about 30 to 50 kite-crazy competitors each weekend.
Good neighbors. Competitive kite flying is just one of the many attractions offered in Cal State East Bay's little-known neighbor, Garin Regional Park.
The park is so close to the Hayward campus that it is possible to take a two-mile trail alongside Zeile Creek from Pioneer Heights to the park's main entrance. The recently opened campus-to-Garin trail was made possible by volunteers who trimmed vegetation to increase hiker accessibility.
The Ivan Dickson Trail Project, named after an avid park user who left $400,000 to the park district after he died, featured 42 volunteers including faculty and students from the university's environmental club and even President Mo Qayoumi.
"The trail project was the first real connection with the campus we've had," said Muller.
Lots to do. The park's 25 miles of trails are filled with as many as 1,500 visitors during the weekends, said Mueller, who added that the views from certain parts of the park are so spectacular that hikers can see all the way to San Jose and Marin County.
Other park attractions include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and picnic areas with barbecue pits that Mueller said are filled with international food during the weekends.
Scattered rustic farm equipment once used at Garin Ranch now lines the park for exhibition purposes, highlighting its theme of early ranching in the East Bay. The park has a visitor's center inside a 1930s barn that includes a shop, blacksmith demonstration area, barbed wire and branding exhibits, a hay-pulling display and tons of old donated pictures, machines and equipment.
Apple and cider lovers will especially enjoy September's Garin Apple Festival. Kids and other visitors can make their own cider from 160 different varieties of apples from the park's orchard.
The best attraction of all, however, might be the feeling of solitude visitors have once inside the rolling, light-brown hills that seem to encase the park.
"It's a good place to get rid of stress and get your thoughts together and enjoy the peace and quiet," Mueller said. "The thing that's awesome about this park is that you feel like you're miles away from everything - but urbanization is just a half-mile away. It's just a nice place to come to."
Where is it? The park extends from campus to Jordan Pond, where it connects to Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park, which runs all the way to the Masonic Home in Union City. The 4,700-acre park duo - with 3,000 acres of that land open to public access - is a part of the East Bay Regional Park District.
When the park opened in 1965, the entrance was above Moreau High School. Now, the way to Garin via car is to turn from Mission Boulevard onto Garin Avenue, across from Industrial Parkway.
Originally, three sisters - all of whom never married - owned Dry Creek Pioneer Park. They loved the park so much that they gave it to the park district instead of selling it.
"They preserved it so people could enjoy it as much as they did while they were growing up," Mueller said.
After the last sister died, the park district received the last piece of the park - a 100-year-old Victorian house in which the sisters used to reside. Now with the parks completely in the park district's possession, the district expects to pick up an additional 1,000 acres of land from a nearby housing development within the next couple of years.
Wild things. The park plays host to such endangered species as the red-legged frog. Other park inhabitants include ducks, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, possums, wild pigs, deer, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, mallards, mud hens and more.
"It's not unusual to come across a bobcat or occasionally a mountain lion," said Mueller, who added that they've never had any problems with visitors dealing with dangerous animals.
As for the park-campus connection, Mueller hopes the trail project started a relationship to build on for years to come.
"I think it's probably just out of sight, out of mind," Mueller said. "I'm hoping in coming years that we can develop a relationship, especially with the Garin Woods (behind Pioneer Heights), which belong to the university."