A New Junk Boat Arrives!

by Karen Dea

It's a classic story with a wonderful ending, but yet there is no ending, always a sequel!!! The evolution of the junk boat play structure that would berth at the Lincoln Square Playground was a vision that came true in 1969. In 1965, highly motivated members of Wa Sung took the journey of a unique idea to create, build and present to the Oakland community a unique play structure that represented an imaginary Chinese junk boat for children of all ages to enjoy. The financial support from the City of Oakland, along with a successful fundraiser, raffling a Camaro car, and the chutzpa of the Wa Sung members all led toward the handsome wooden junk boat that sat gallantly in the depths of sand for over 31 years, enabling generations of families and the community to clamor onboard to play on the junk boat play structure.

The saga continues with great momentum, for in 2003, Jeanne Chiang, Karen Dea, Dr. Wayne Fong and Harry Greer as co-chairs recognized the immediate need to restore the junk boat structure, otherwise its fate of would be closure by the City of Oakland. Reasons for possible closure and enforced removal of the boat were its deterioration which magnified unsafe conditions, liability factors, noncompliance with the current ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility requirements, and the less-than-adequate City funding to maintain it.

Junk Boat Committee Co-Chairs: Karen Dea, Jeanne Chiang, Harry Greer, Wayne Fong

Immediately, plans to name the play area and the restoration of the junk boat were initiated. Numerous City of Oakland Park and Recreation and Life Enrichment approvals were sought successfully along with the City Council's passage of votes, which claimed two major victories: officially naming the current junk boat area, "The Wa Sung Community Service Club Play Area," and receiving hefty funding toward the Junk Boat Restoration Project.

History did repeat itself after 30 years with the feeling of success from the start: fundraising, a dedicated committee, community support and the funding from the City of Oakland. Monetary levels of sponsorship were achieved, and as a token of appreciation, the donors received a customized crystal symbolizing the junk boat etched dimensionally inside. The City of Oakland Public Works Agency managed the teardown and restoration with the landscape designers, contractors, and builders starting in May 2006 and completing in December 2006. A new contemporary component was additionally featured to the play area: educational panels representing a short story on: Wa Sung Community Service Club's historical scope as a non-profit community service organization, a Chinese Junk Boat for Oakland, Masters of Navigation, and Oakland's Chinatowns. A new waist-high concrete wall hugs the frontage of the junk boat area displaying a bronze sponsor plaque, a bronze re-dedication and appreciation plaque and two educational interpretive panels. Existing foundation pillars and the center pole were kept and used as part of the restoration. A progressive pictorial view of this period of activity and progress is on the Wa Sung website.

The Wa Sung Junk Boat Committee co-chairs and members (Richard Fong, Ron and Barbara Hing, Cyndee Lim, Clayton and Cheryl Yukumoto) met regularly during the past 3 years of this project. They were instrumental in organizing the project kickoff and groundbreaking ceremony held during Easter 2006, the Junk Boat Sponsor ceremonies at the play area and appreciation luncheon at Scott's Restaurant in January 2007, and the official junk boat re-dedication in February 2007. The successful completion of this project was a crowning achievement of the numerous community-minded and spirited people and organizations who had been working hard to write the sequel to the continuing junk boat saga.

Let's Play!