Preserving and protecting Piedmont Pines' natural beauty

Click here for photos and "rules" for the Painted Rocks


Click here for cool map of Sausal Creek watershed.


Monthly work parties:  PPNA Director Elaine Geffen and PPNA resident Richard Kauffman organize monthly work parties plus two annual clean-up events: Earth Day in April and Creek To Bay Day in September. E-mail Elaine Geffen to find out how you can help at Marj Saunders Park at Ascot and Chelton; Email Richard Kauffman to see how you can help at Beaconsfield Canyon on Keswick off Chelton. Read on for more information about both sites.

Check out just a few of our many work day photos. Click on a photo to enlarge it.




Four major beauty campaigns

Many of us moved to Piedmont Pines because we fell in love with its natural beauty. We are blessed with access to gorgeous parks and open space, some of which we fought long and hard to preserve from multi-unit construction. 

Piedmont Pines puts a very high value on keeping our surroundings neat, tidy, and fire-safe,  and enhancing the natural beauty by removing non-native invasive plants and replacing with natives. We’' have hours and hours of volunteer time invested in our three major beautification projects. We are in the early stages of a fourth effort, Project Gateway, detailed below.

If you'’d like to volunteer to help on any of these, E-mail Elaine Geffen to find out how you can pitch in, or visit the calendar on our home page for work dates. 


Marjorie Saunders Park



 French Broom Abatement

Borrow our pulling tool

Piedmont Pines is working hard to rid our neighborhood of invasive and highly flammable French Broom. We have a medium-sized week puller we will loan to paid members that makes removal of plants that are too big to remove by hand. Sign into our Member Center with your user name and password* to see if your dues are paid. If yes, contact Elaine Geffen to arrange a loan. 

* Your user name is generally your email address. To set your password, click on Sign In at the top of the home page at then click on reset password.


Much of what is beautiful about Piedmont Pines is directly attributable to the tireless efforts of Marj Saunders. In 2003, more than 100 Piedmont Pines residents petitioned the City to honor Marj's many contributions by renaming Sulphur Springs Park (affectionately dubbed "Painted Rocks”) to Marjorie Saunders Park. On June 26, 2004, more than 100 neighbors and dignitaries turned out for the dedication of the park in her name.Our debt of gratitude to Marjorie Saunders (1909-2009).  

For more than 50 years, Marj advocated for open space and lobbied against large and unsafe development. She set an example by taking a bag with her on her daily walks and picking up litter, as well as cleaning up the open space areas herself. The recent purchase of Castle Canyon and earlier purchase of Beaconsfield Canyon by the City was due in no small part to Marj's decades-long battles. In 1949, she crusaded for the acquisition of the Boy Scout camp that is now home to Montera Middle School and Joaquin Miller Elementary School. She also worked on replacing septic tanks with sewer lines, reopening Chelton Road when it was closed by a landslide, defeating a proposed four-lane highway on Skyline Boulevard, preserving Beaconsfield Canyon (the land surrounding the Painted Rocks), and gaining approval for the construction of Joaquin Miller Community Center. The list could go on and on. We thank you, Marj, and we miss you!

We have made Marjorie Saunders Park our official Oakland Adopt-a-Spot as well as an Adopt-a-Drain site.  

Our partners:  We work with several groups, including Hillside Gardeners, Joaquin Miller Elementary School Ecology Club, Keep Oakland Beautiful and Friends of Sausal Creek (FOSC) to keep this site beautiful and welcoming. FOSC supports our efforts with advice and provides native plants from Joaquin Miller Native Plant Nursery, and also identified a serious creek erosion issue, which we were able to fix by redirecting the creek to its proper path.



Beaconsfield Canyon

In 1987, PPNA rallied to convince Oakland to buy the property at the end of Beaconsfield Place (off Chelton Dr.), thus defeating a 16-home development. The land remains as open space and has been undergoing a beautification and creek restoration effort, spearheaded by resident Richard Kauffman, with major assistance from Wendy Tokuda and the Friends of Sausal Creek.

Beaconsfield has also been selected by the Oakland Fire Department as a demonstration project for long-term, sustainable clearing that will reduce invasive plants and nurture native plant populations.  Richard organizes monthly work parties to restore natural vegetation and reduce the fire load. To help with this restoration, email Richard Kauffmann.  

Beaconsfield Canyon is not a spot you'd naturally stumble upon. It's at the junction of Keswick and Beaconsfield off lower Chelton Dr.


 Castle Canyon 

Castle Canyon, now part of Joaquin Miller Park, is bordered by Castle Drive on the east and Mastlands Drive/Larry Lane on the west. In the late 70s, this land was part of a 30-acre parcel threatened by a huge development. Two neighbors each purchased 10-acre portions, leaving the last 10 acres open to development. In 1999, the developer proposed 17 homes. The Association went into high gear, gathering environmentalists, slope engineers, and attorneys to fight what would have been a very dangerous development. In 2006, we emerged triumphant with a compromise that allowed four homes: two at the top of the canyon and two on the southern side near Castle Park Way. Eight acres were purchased by the City after our successful lobbying to use Measure K funds.Today, resident Jeff Sharp is Piedmont Pines'’ steward for Castle Canyon. Jeff organizes two work parties a year, one on Earth Day in April, one on Creek-to-Bay Day in September. E-mail Jeff Sharp to find out how you can help beautify the canyon and reduce the fire load. 

Board member Stan Weisner has undertaken an effort to clear dead trees and limbs at the top of the canyon to protect against wildfire. He is lobbying Parks and Recs and Public Works to manage the fire danger. 

Gateway Beautification Project

Ever rolled your eyes at the stretch of Mountain Blvd that takes traffic from Highway 13 ramps into the Village or brings us residents into our own neighborhood? Not very welcoming. But it could be!

In spring 2015, PPNA formed a partnership with the Montclair Village Association, District 4 Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, various City agencies and Keep Oakland Beautiful to beautify the stretch of Mountain Blvd from Highway 13 ramps to the Mash gas station near Scout Rd.  

For the most up to date information on donating and volunteering, see our Gateway Beautification Project team's webpage.


Project priorities

We divided the project into three phases so we could keep a tight focus on plans and fundraising for each.

  • Phase 1: "Muralize" the 500-foot concrete wall (top right image below)
  • Phase 2: De-weed and beautify the paths on both sides of Mountain so they're clean and safe for pedestrian travel
  • Phase 3:  Gussy up all the medians with drought-resistant and weed-free solutions  (left photo)

 Here's what we see today-- Let's all pitch in to Make Montclair More Magnificent!



Phase 1 progress and plans

  1. July:  Artist and public school teacher Mandy Lockwood was selected as the project's muralist. She completed her concept design.
  2. Mid-September: crowd-sourcing campaign launched to raise $10,500 for the mural. Within the first four weeks, individual donors contributed over $4,000; and Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington and Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley joined the campaign with generous donations.
  3. October 24: Community Day of Service held to clear the wall of debris and weeds. Twenty volunteers lent a hand for four hours, collecting more than 40 bags of garbage and debris and a HUGE pile of branches that had overhung the wall.
  4. November 8 and 15: Volunteers will prime the wall
  5. Thanksgiving: Mandy will begin painting the huge California Live Oak, the mural's centerpiece.
  6. 2016: as weather permits and Mandy's teaching schedule allows time off, she will complete the wall with a swarm of Sister Butterflies


Donate today to help reach our goal of $10,500!


The project team will begin developing plans for Phases 2 and 3 once the fundraising is complete for Phase 1.

Here are some photos of our volunteers in action on our Community Service Day. Click on a picture to begin the slide show.