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November 02, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Big environmental issues over development of Bayfront Park Big environmental issues over development of Bayfront Park (November 02, 2005)

By Rory Brown

Almanac Staff Writer

Although they may not be at tonight's (November 1) Menlo Park City Council meeting, Bayfront Park's plants and animals may be the biggest obstacle in building a golf course on the 160-acre park.

Environmental considerations played a large role in crafting the 1976 environmental impact report (EIR) for converting the site from a landfill into a park.

Prepared by Oakland-based Ironside and Associates, the EIR emphasized that recreation facilities such as baseball diamonds would be "inconsistent with the natural character of this park," stressing the opportunity the park presented to accommodate and attract wildlife.

The EIR lists 82 types of birds, 22 mammals and 24 reptiles and amphibians that could potentially use the park.

Today, several people are concerned about the effects development could have on wildlife in the park.

"We were surprised that the city has not done background research that surely will be needed," said Eilieen McLaughlin, a tour guide for the Wildlife Stewards, a Bay Area volunteer environmentalist group, in a letter to the council.

The city has not contacted the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge or the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, said Ms. McLaughlin in her letter.

Lennie Roberts, a San Mateo County legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills, says any development at the park is a departure from the master plan to keep the park free of irrigation.

There are also major environmental concerns associated with constructing three playing fields on a portion of the park currently filled by a tidal pond, which is an extension of the flood slough, said Ms. Roberts.

"The pond and marsh are essentially part of the Bay," she said. "There are major restrictions on filling wetlands, and the city may be legally unable to do it."

Ms. Roberts also noted a potential sales-tax increase aimed at increasing funds for public parks will appear on the November 2006 state ballot. According to 2002 sales-tax figures, Menlo Park could receive around $330,000 a year from the increase if it is approved, said Ms. Roberts.

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