The creation of Waterside Workshops served a two-fold purpose, addressing the need for vocational training as a part of a healthy community and revitalizing a highly under-used urban park. Our founding staff and board members are artisans, tradesmen, mechanics, teachers and environmentalists from a variety of backgrounds whose lives have all been greatly influenced by their exposure to handcrafts and skills. Independently, each of these individuals watched woodshop, metalshop, and other vocational programs disappear from the public school system. When an opportunity arose to lease a dilapidated building in Berkeley’s Aquatic Park, they saw a chance to address this growing problem while inviting young people back into a nearly deserted urban space. Cleaning and renovation took place from May of 2006 until May of 2007 to insure our buildings were safe for the community.
We decided that Waterside would teach wooden boat building and bicycle mechanics because of the expertise of our founding staff and our location on a narrow strip of land between the water’s edge and the Aquatic Park bicycle path. We began providing classes for local youth in May of 2007 and by 2008 our programs were full of youth from neighboring communities.