Lake Merritt

Lake Merritt in Oakland, California is one of the most unique urban spaces in the United States. Its three mile heart-shaped shoreline in the center of an exceptionally diverse city is the place for man and nature to migrate and mingle daily. This tidal lagoon is also home to the oldest designated wildlife refuge (1870) in the United States.

An Open Channel

Over the lifespan of 150 years, Lake Merritt had moved further and further away from its natural habitat. Many people assume that the lake is man-made. However, Lake Merritt is actually a natural tidal slough connected to the bay by a channel that over history has been continuously filled in as construction projects enveloped the area due to Oakland’s growth and the need for new roadways and interstates. In some sections, the channel was completely buried with water passing between the lake and Estuary through an underground box culvert, which has remained that way for the past 100 years.

The 12th Street Project was part of Measure DD – the Oakland Trust for Clean Water and Safe Parks. The purpose of the $198 million bond was to fund a variety of projects related to clean water and parks. The 12th Street Project accounted for $32 million of the bond and is the most extensive piece of the restoration. The project included re-establishing a section of the open channel and removing the buried culvert at the interface with the lake. This open canal was the first phase of construction that now provides travel by kayak from the lake to the Oakland Estuary. The open channel increases tidal flushing. This action of saltwater entering an estuary twice a day during the high tides renews the salinity and nutrients to the estuary. These improvements have led to cleaner water quality in Lake Merritt and improved habitat for fish and wildlife.

A Space for Everyone

As part of the City of Oakland’s on-going effort to re-vitalize the Lake Merritt shoreline, the area surrounding the Lake Chalet Boathouse was renovated. New utilities (fire service, domestic water, sanitary sewer) were installed to service this popular restaurant with a great view. Adorning the Boathouse and shoreline, a new park was installed with decorative concrete paths, seating areas and landscape. Now everyone can enjoy this area including the environment through installation of a green roof, pervious concrete, and a decorative bio-swale; all designed to capture and filter runoff.

Lakeside Green Reconstruction is a 14-acre area designed to improve the traffic and experience of this vibrant and active area. At all times of the day, people can be found walking, biking, strolling, jogging and riding scooters around the lake. The constant movement of people and vehicles will benefit through pedestrian and bicycle use, calm traffic, increase parkland, improve Snow Park, and improve water quality. Another improvement to the park is the Fairyland Entrance. Along with a new and whimsical sign, the entrance features a whimsical concrete design, custom railing installation, and vibrant landscape. Children and adults of all ages will continue to enjoy Fairyland's mark on the community of Oakland, as well as the refreshing, new entrance.

Lake Merritt Projects