Thousands of extra visitors? A wedding reception every day of the year? Parked cars clogging the roads near park entrances? A master plan for future development at Huddart and Wunderlich county parks in Woodside has town officials and residents deeply concerned about the impact.
Huddart and Wunderlich parks offer almost 2,000 acres of forest and meadow threaded with trails and dotted with picnic and group camp sites. The master plan includes constructing two new buildings at Huddart Park: a new visitors' center and a new community building at the Zwierlein group picnic area. It also details improvements to restrooms, roads, parking lots and group camp areas, as well as some trails and trail bridges.
A crowd of people showed up at the Woodside Town Council's Sept. 11 meeting to raise concerns that they said they were not adequately addressed in the plan's draft environmental impact report. The report is a state-mandated analysis of the project's potential impacts.
Woodsiders are concerned about traffic, noise and other effects, especially those from the proposed community building at Huddart that could host weddings year-round. The park currently hosts two or three weddings a weekend.
"If it's used 100 days a year by 250 people, that's 250,000 people," said Virginia Dare, chair of the town's open space committee. She said the park currently draws about 90,000 visitors a year.
"It's a potentially significant increase in use," Ms. Dare said. "It's being shoved under the mat, being ignored, and it needs to be addressed."
The proposed closure of park trails' creek crossings for horses has local equestrians upset, and the potential impact of cars parking on the road rather than in the parking lots has town officials worried.
"I'm amazed at this draft (report) mostly because there is such a lack of analysis to support their assumptions," Mayor Sue Boynton said.
Residents of Greer Road are worried that the access road to Huddart at the end of their narrow lane will turn into a second entrance to the park, overwhelming them with traffic. They've already seen a big increase in county park vehicles using the road, and they report ongoing problems with the presence of large numbers of recreational bicyclists.
"This is a call to action to the council to protect Greer Road residents," said resident Bob Susk.
Residents and Woodside town staff also said they found a number of errors from the master plan that had been repeated or exacerbated in environmental impact report.
"Our citizens reviewed the draft EIR in detail and picked up on its dreadful inadequacies," said Councilwoman Carroll Ann Hodges.
One such source error is the fact that the environmental report says that Huddart Park is surrounded entirely by public lands, ignoring the fact that it shares a half-mile boundary with private property owned by Elizabeth Flood, says Mr. Susk, who is Ms. Flood's attorney. The report also references a plan to open to the public a permissive horse trail on Ms. Flood's property, something Mr. Susk said will not happen and should be removed from the EIR.
Almost all of the concerns raised at Woodside's meeting had been raised before with the county, said Councilwoman Deborah Gordon.
"You read this and it's clear that they didn't hear us. They didn't pay attention to any of these concerns," Ms. Gordon said. "That's the thing that bothers me the most about this."
By consensus, the Town Council agreed to incorporate residents' comments and concerns into an official response letter from the town that will be become part of the record in the final environmental impact report.
"I think we have our work cut out for us," said Councilman Dave Tanner. "We need to go to San Mateo (County) in a bigger force to make sure they hear us."