Quite possibly the most underrated park in Oakland is not really a park at all.
Founded in 1863, Mountain View Cemetery sits at the top of Piedmont Avenue, and on any given day you can find people jogging, picnicking, or even practicing yoga on the cemetery grounds. With 223 acres of rolling hills boasting views of the Bay, it is also the final resting place of prominent Bay Area residents like Domingo Ghirardelli, Julia Morgan, and Charles Crocker.
But famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, did not intend the cemetery to be used as an urban-park in his initial designs. “Keep in mind that, when Mountain View Cemetery was founded in 1863, Oakland was the suburbs,” says the cemetery’s general manager, Jeff Lindeman.
Instead Olmsted, who notably designed Central Park, envisioned a cemetery primarily for the S.F. metropolis.
However, as Oakland became a major city in its own right, Mountain View Cemetery adapted to the evolving urban area.
And, today, the cemetery and the city have entered into a symbiotic relationship of sorts. Mountain View Cemetery offers beautiful, green, open space for an ever-growing population. The not-for-profit is run through a community association, which hosts events throughout the year. Next month, it will welcome a floral arrangement exhibition, free to the public.
For nearby residents, the terms “cemetery” and “park” have almost become interchangeable when referring to Mountain View’s grounds.
“I come here with my puppies, I like to walk the dogs [in the cemetery],” said Annika Adams. “It has really pretty views of the entire bay.” Adams is not alone, noting friends that will bike through the cemetery hills.
If the 4.5 star Yelp page is not indicator enough of the cemetery’s singularity, try attending one of the many events hosted on the Mountain View grounds. There is the annual Pumpkin Festival, the Holiday Circle of Lights, and even a “Run Through History” 5k through the cemetery trails.
“One could resist the evolution of Mountain View Cemetery as an urban park-like cemetery,” said Lindeman, “or one can embrace it.” (E.C.)