The park, located at 4311 Hubbard Street, was once home to the largest sacred Shellmound burial in the Bay Area
Katie Lauer, Bay Area News Group
The confluence of Emeryville’s industrial past and vision for a sustainable, equitable future merged Saturday with the history of the land the city sits on at the opening of a new green space: Huchiun Park.
Located at 4311 Hubbard Street — on the opposite side of the train tracks of the bustling Bay Street shopping complex — the land was once home to the largest sacred Shellmound burial in the Bay Area. It was built into the Oakland Trotting Park racetrack in 1871; that track was later demolished to make way for a Sherwin-Williams paint emulsion factory, which ceased operations in 2006.
Hundreds of people from Emeryville and the neighboring community gathered at the city’s Harvest Festival on Saturday afternoon, celebrating the full-circle moment for a property that has officially been remediated, redeveloped and returned to the community.
The grassy, 2-acre park is surrounded by more than 500 housing units on three sides, and features a kids play area, basketball court, community garden and art installations.
Reflecting on the years of work that led up Saturday’s dedication, Mayor John Bauters said Huchiun Park exemplifies the vision that the city is trying to accomplish.
But in order to make sure the city doesn’t lose sight of its past, Emeryville residents were solicited this fall for ideas of names that referenced either the park’s legacy, distinct geographic location or a person who made significant contributions to the city.
Submissions were mulled over by an ad-hoc committee and presented to the Emeryville City Council in September. City officials unanimously selected the name Xučyun “Huchiun” Park — a reference to the land’s Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone name, granted for use with the blessing of Native peoples.
Corrina Gould, Tribal Chair of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan Nation, said that while the name only became known in recent years because of efforts to inform others about the sacred site, it will act as a permanent source of education.
“It’s because of the work that we have done — not just the Lisjan people, but people from all walks of life — that has educated the public about where we are,” Gould said during Saturday’s ceremony. “I’m honored that this place represents our people by name of a territory, but that we are still here. This is not the end of our work with Emeryville.”
Corrina Gould, right, the tribal spokesperson for the Confederated Villages of Lisjan speaks alongside Assemblymember for the 18th District Mia Bonta, and Emeryville Mayor John Bauters during the dedication for the new Huchiun Park, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Emeryville, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron for the Bay Area News Group)
Assemblymember Mia Bonta agreed, saying that other communities can study the park project as a prime example of why the square-mile city stands out as “a gem of the East Bay.”
“Emeryville is always punching above its weight,” Bonta said Saturday. “When you talk about creating this beautiful, built-community — taking something that was literally toxic to the land and turning it into a space where people can convene, celebrate and have housing — this is such an amazing example of what the potential of California is.”
But one of the biggest upsides about Huchiun Park for Harvest Festival attendees was its accessibility, especially for cyclists and pedestrians traveling along the Emeryville Greenway, as well as the South Bayfront Bridge that arches over to Bay Street.
That access was one of the biggest reasons Sam and Alexis Gould were excited to move into one of the townhomes directly next to the park at the beginning of 2023, despite the ongoing construction.
“This was both a convenient and comfortable choice to make,” said Sam Gould, 26. In addition to being able to “roll” right out the door on his bicycle commute to work, the game programmer and member of Emeryville’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee is “just excited to live somewhere that gets stuff done, where I can always look forward to the next project.”
Until then, the married couple said they are excited to become part of the local community at Huchiun Park — right in their own backyard.
“Emeryville is a smaller, fairly progressive community filled with a lot of people who want to actively change the world that we live in,” said Alexis Gould, 25, noting how other neighboring cities often get bogged down by dissenting voices. “This park is a beautiful example of the kinds of plans the city is trying to implement here.