Hart Park Rock Walk LbNA # 8538 (ARCHIVED)
|Placed Date||Jun 4 2004|
At the intersection of Panorama Dr and Mt. Vernon Ave in NE Bakersfield take Alfred Harrell Hwy east 4.3 miles to the park. Pass between eight palm trees at entrance, and keep right on main road next to hillside. Follow the road about eight tenths mile as it curves around the hillside, pass Hill St, and approaches the John O. Hart Memorial. It's a six-foot monolith with a short, tunnel-like hole through it. Park your car next to it here in the lot. Years ago Hart saw the rock in Kern Canyon and said it would make a good monument for the park. In 1937 the 4.5-ton, water-worn monolith was dedicated to his memory.
Look to the southeast for two five-foot-high rock pillars topped with what look like white beach balls. Examine the pillars up close and you'll notice they're made of chunks of petrified wood. In 1935 SERA (State Emergency Relief Act) workers trucked them in from the Mojave Desert. Hike up the dirt ramp between the two pillars. In 1936 a bleacher was here and spectators viewed swimmers in what was once California's largest fresh water swimming pool--now the park's equipment yard.
Return to the pillars below. To your left is what might appear to be an eight-foot incinerator. This is one of several standpipes in the park that were once used for a flood irrigation system.
Now cross the road to the northeast and find a circular, river-rock drinking fountain building. Kern County relief workers who built this tower in 1935 were the highest paid in the nation--$48 a month. The faucets flowed sulfur water from an artesian well that was on the south hillside.
Cross the road south to the grassy hillside east of the maintenance buildings. At the curb next to the parking lot were a food stand and a 10-foot-long, sulfur water drinking fountain with faucets that ran all the time. Park visitors filled jugs to take home the medicinal waters. Before1950 five wooden bathhouses were in a line up the hillside. They also received warm, pungent water from the artesian well.
Climb to the far upper southeast section of the grass and locate a six-foot-diameter, white cement curbing that is protruding from the grass. A steel plate caps it. About 1900 a wildcat well was drilled at this spot, but instead of hitting oil, at 1,300 feet they hit a sulfur water aquifer. Initially it bubbled forth at 55 gallons per minute to the river, but later delivered to the bathhouses and drinking fountains below. Because of agricultural pumping the water table fell in this area, and after the earthquake of 1952 most of the flowing springs along the river dried up.
On the nearby street curbing find a stamp that reads "WPA 1941". SERA and WPA government work projects during the Depression produced most of the park's improvements you see today, including the two tanks on the hill installed for water pressure in earlier years.
At 290 degrees off north below you is a parking lot. Most of the fenced area outlines the enormous swimming pool installed here in 1937. Changing rooms were where the present buildings are now. Water for the pool was delivered from an electric pump in the old water wheel building--now in ruins--on River Road below. The pool was abandoned in the mid-1980s and demolished about 1992. That 10-foot fountain once by the road was bulldozed into the old pool for fill.
Follow the road west past the fence on your right, and head toward the brushy area beyond it. This tangle of growth occupies the old overflow reservoir for the plunge. Before that it was part of the park's early flood irrigation system that included the area where the maintenance yard is now. The entire area was known as the "old mudhole" for canoes and swimming.
Continue west along the road. Find a stone monument on your left (south side) marked "Aerie". From about 1928 to 1940 many Bakersfield social groups planted groves of trees along this hillside above the road. A few oaks and bottle trees still hold on. The bronze markers you might have noticed on some of the boulders are survivors of 70 years of vandalism--an ongoing problem for the park since its first day of dedication in 1929.
Ahead, next to the road and on the left, find two caramel-colored boulders missing their bronze markers. Stand to the left of the most westerly one and sight south toward the hill. Ignore the first tree in your line of sight. The many-armed tree directly behind it is your goal. Count off 15 paces from the second tree to it. About six feet above the ground in the crotch of the tree is a black letterbox. It's hidden under some loose bark.
You can round the reservoir to your car, and if you are sure-footed you might walk a ways on top the old berm that surrounds the reservoir. Quite a wild tangle today!
But before that, glance to your left at the broad hillside. In 1939 there was interest in building an enormous public amphitheater there. It was never started, but at the base of the hillside is a three-foot-high concrete marker. It seems to have had an object imbedded in its top, and it's marked with the letters "JROUAM". No one remembers why it was put there.-- Gil and PJ