Oakland's Lake Merritt center of new 'Love Our Lake!' campaign to attract people

Lake Merritt is also known as the jewel of Oakland

A new campaign that launched Monday hopes to add some shine to the popular destination, which has also been the scene of crimes, including homicides, car break-ins, and vandalism.

"Love Our Lake!" which is meant to revitalize and showcase the beauty of Oakland and its artists against the backdrop of Lake Merritt, officially kicks off this Saturday with a free afternoon concert and community picnic. 

Children's Fairyland executive director Kymberly Miller came up with the idea.

"I want children and families to feel really comfortable and excited to enjoy outdoor recreation, art and culture, at our heart's center at the lake," Miller said. 

The initiative is a collaboration among lakeside institutions including the Oakland Museum of California, the Oakland Public Library and Visit Oakland.

There will be pop-up activities featuring free concerts, jogging groups, and health and wellness classes.

"We're about positivity and working with our community, not just the organizations that surround the lake that really want to invite our Oaklanders back down to the lake for fun and joy and vitality, but also our city officials, our departments," said Miller. "We're working hand in hand."

Oakland resident Ross Tucker has lived in Oakland for several years.

"I used to be a person that would come down to the lake all the time, and walk the lake, but different things started happening, when the vibes started changing," he said. "I quit coming down. But I think this is a good way to boost the ‘re-vibrance’ of the old Lake Merritt before the pandemic."  

In fact, he was at the lake during the Juneteenth shooting in 2021 that left a 22-year-old dead and six others wounded.

"I was on the other side of the lake, y'all YouYube it, it was a shooting between two rival enemies and half of us ran up MacArthur," he said.

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Tucker said he's more guarded and vigilant when he visits the lake. 

"Like when my partner had suggested we come meet a friend of ours for just a hangout at the lake, I was like 'uh it's about to get dark,'" said Tucker, who said he did not plan to stay very long Monday evening. 

Last year, Lake Merritt was the scene of a shocking discovery - a 23-year-old man's body was found stuffed in a suitcase. 

Oakland police data shows that violent crimes citywide are trending down this year, the department is beginning to see an uptick in homicides. 

In the police district that includes much of Lake Merritt, assaults and robberies are up in 2024 compared to the same time period last year..

"There's so many people out walking around I feel like it's definitely safe for families," said Alex Weaver of Oakland. 

"I think it has a bad rap, I think it's a lovely lake," said Lauren Arce of Oakland. "It could definitely use more lighting and I do not like going out after night, not unless I'm accompanied by someone."

Matt Terrell and his partner bring their dog Pau to Lake Merritt every day.

"I'm in favor of anything that gets people out and mingling together... taking advantage of the community that I think makes Oakland different than any place here," he said. 

A full schedule of events from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend visit https://www.visitoakland.com/loveourlake/