The possibility of the city taking over the park came up earlier this year when county supervisors decided that the park's annual $200,000 maintenance cost didn't fit in the budget, prompting them to offer the park to the city.
The city's next step was to get a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission, which recently studied the pros and cons. The five commissioners present at the Nov. 16 meeting unanimously voted to move forward despite a staff report questioning whether the city needed more open space. The commissioners did add a caveat, however — that the city take over Flood Park only if there's a plan to cover the costs.
We couldn't agree more. The county's loss is Menlo Park's gain in this case, although it will take a concerted effort to line up adequate funding to keep the sports fields and other amenities maintained.
The city's ace in the hole should be the parents of the hundreds of kids who participate in AYSO soccer, Little League and numerous other club sports that depend on steady access to local fields to play and practice. If these organizations step up and share the load, the city will wind up with a huge infusion of field space that should help meet demand for years to come.
The park, conveniently located on Bay Road on the city's east side, comes with a baseball field, softball field and tennis court, along with open space and picnic areas. And there is space to build two more soccer fields if the city or another entity could come up with the funding to make that dream come true.
In its assessment, the city staff estimated that annual maintenance costs could hit an almost unbelievable $595,000 a year, nearly triple what the county has allocated in recent years. And staff said it could take up to $20 million over 10 years to bring the park up to the same standards as others in Menlo Park.
As far as demand for field space, the commission and sports team members attending the meeting took issue with the staff's conclusion that the city might not need more space, based on the results of a 2006 study.
Not so, said longtime park user and member of the Friends of Flood Park Kathy Nicosia, who said that conclusion was partly based on groups not requesting space from the city because they already knew none was available.
"The city approved four new organizations for field usage," she told the Almanac. "They claim there is not a shortage, but there really is a shortage and everybody realizes that. With these new (organizations) coming in, it jumpstarted Parks and Recreation to say we really do need Flood Park."
A way must be found to pay for park maintenance if the fields are to become the city's responsibility. There are plenty of potential backers who might help, including the Friends of Flood Park. Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Kelly Blythe said he would also like to explore public-private partnerships and selling (or leasing) part of the land for recreational uses.
Surely the city can find the funds to take advantage of this singular opportunity to increase its stock of park lands, which can only grow more valuable as the years