News

A future for Tinker Park?

MP board saves space for tot lot on Hillview campus

A preschool tot lot and a public middle school are admittedly strange bedfellows. But it seems to work at wee little Tinker Park, a small public playground carved out of the Hillview Middle School campus on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park.

A transformation of the Hillview campus, set to start next year, would have eliminated Tinker Park and used the space as a sort of landscape buffer, with an emergency vehicle access road and an outdoor classroom area under a large oak tree.

The plan is to rebuild Hillview's classrooms, administrative offices and other buildings in denser, two-story clusters where the playing field now stands, and then tear down the old single-story buildings and create a new field.

But, acting on a request from the city of Menlo Park, the Menlo Park City School District's board opted to carve out a new one-eighth-acre spot for Tinker Park from the 9-acre campus, possibly forgoing the outdoor classroom. The existing park, including a small grassy field, inhabits about one-quarter of an acre.

The future of the pocket-sized park sidetracked the school board during its review of minor changes to the Hillview plan at the Sept. 9 meeting. Board members debated whether to keep the park, where to put it, and who would pay for it.

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"It's got nothing to do with operating a school. What are we giving up that was intended for the middle school?" Superintendent Ken Ranella asked the board.

Mr. Ranella pointed out that with the ever-growing enrollment in the district, there are space constraints on all the campuses. As a result, the district is creating community assets that are also useful to students, like fields, jogging tracks, basketball courts and multi-purpose rooms.

"Tinker Park was designed by the city when schools were small and the space was not used -- many, many years ago," he said.

By and large, board members seemed unconvinced that many teachers would lead classes on informal benches in the small, undeveloped space called out on the Hillview plans.

"I don't think it's as peaceful as it looks in this drawing," said board member Laura Rich, pointing out its location on busy Santa Cruz Avenue.

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Board member Maria Hilton was less enthusiastic than her colleagues about saving the park.

"I want to be a good neighbor and a good partner, but this really isn't looking at the project as a middle school," she said. "There are other parks in this town."

She pointed out that the surrounding neighborhood is all single-family homes with backyards where children can play.

"I see it as using this buffer space in a better way, personally," countered board member Jeff Child. "We give the city a little help, and we're asking for a lot of help from them, by the way."

He and board member Mark Box had fond memories of taking their own children to Tinker Park, and they bristled at a suggestion to eliminate the swing set in order to save space.

"The main thing is the swing, that's what the park is," said Mr. Child.

But the board members drew the line at paying to replace the park, which is estimated to cost around $50,000, including new fencing.

On 5-0 vote, the board directed the district architect to include a version of Tinker Park -- with the swing -- in the Hillview plans, but to pass the installation costs on to the city of Menlo Park.

At the meeting, the board also affirmed its previous decision to eliminate tennis courts from Hillview, saying that they took up too much space and were of too little use to such a large student population. City officials had also asked the district to consider saving the tennis courts.

Menlo Park officials also offered to contribute toward the installation of a new artificial turf field at Hillview, Mr. Ranella said. The local AYSO already has pledged between $75,000 and $150,000 toward the new field, which will be shared by youth soccer teams.

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Andrea Gemmet
Andrea Gemmet was born and raised in the Midpeninsula and has been with the Mountain View Voice since 2010. She became editor of The Almanac in 2020, where she had previously worked as a reporter. Read more >>

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A future for Tinker Park?

MP board saves space for tot lot on Hillview campus

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Sep 17, 2009, 11:26 am

A preschool tot lot and a public middle school are admittedly strange bedfellows. But it seems to work at wee little Tinker Park, a small public playground carved out of the Hillview Middle School campus on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park.

A transformation of the Hillview campus, set to start next year, would have eliminated Tinker Park and used the space as a sort of landscape buffer, with an emergency vehicle access road and an outdoor classroom area under a large oak tree.

The plan is to rebuild Hillview's classrooms, administrative offices and other buildings in denser, two-story clusters where the playing field now stands, and then tear down the old single-story buildings and create a new field.

But, acting on a request from the city of Menlo Park, the Menlo Park City School District's board opted to carve out a new one-eighth-acre spot for Tinker Park from the 9-acre campus, possibly forgoing the outdoor classroom. The existing park, including a small grassy field, inhabits about one-quarter of an acre.

The future of the pocket-sized park sidetracked the school board during its review of minor changes to the Hillview plan at the Sept. 9 meeting. Board members debated whether to keep the park, where to put it, and who would pay for it.

"It's got nothing to do with operating a school. What are we giving up that was intended for the middle school?" Superintendent Ken Ranella asked the board.

Mr. Ranella pointed out that with the ever-growing enrollment in the district, there are space constraints on all the campuses. As a result, the district is creating community assets that are also useful to students, like fields, jogging tracks, basketball courts and multi-purpose rooms.

"Tinker Park was designed by the city when schools were small and the space was not used -- many, many years ago," he said.

By and large, board members seemed unconvinced that many teachers would lead classes on informal benches in the small, undeveloped space called out on the Hillview plans.

"I don't think it's as peaceful as it looks in this drawing," said board member Laura Rich, pointing out its location on busy Santa Cruz Avenue.

Board member Maria Hilton was less enthusiastic than her colleagues about saving the park.

"I want to be a good neighbor and a good partner, but this really isn't looking at the project as a middle school," she said. "There are other parks in this town."

She pointed out that the surrounding neighborhood is all single-family homes with backyards where children can play.

"I see it as using this buffer space in a better way, personally," countered board member Jeff Child. "We give the city a little help, and we're asking for a lot of help from them, by the way."

He and board member Mark Box had fond memories of taking their own children to Tinker Park, and they bristled at a suggestion to eliminate the swing set in order to save space.

"The main thing is the swing, that's what the park is," said Mr. Child.

But the board members drew the line at paying to replace the park, which is estimated to cost around $50,000, including new fencing.

On 5-0 vote, the board directed the district architect to include a version of Tinker Park -- with the swing -- in the Hillview plans, but to pass the installation costs on to the city of Menlo Park.

At the meeting, the board also affirmed its previous decision to eliminate tennis courts from Hillview, saying that they took up too much space and were of too little use to such a large student population. City officials had also asked the district to consider saving the tennis courts.

Menlo Park officials also offered to contribute toward the installation of a new artificial turf field at Hillview, Mr. Ranella said. The local AYSO already has pledged between $75,000 and $150,000 toward the new field, which will be shared by youth soccer teams.

Comments

Former Tinker Park user
Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 17, 2009 at 1:03 pm
Former Tinker Park user, Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 17, 2009 at 1:03 pm

My kids enjoyed the park very much even though we had our own yard w/ plenty play toys. The park is a nice place to socialize, both for the children and the adults with them. Keep it one way or another!


Tennis Player
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm
Tennis Player, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm

I'm happy about Tinker Park, but sad about the tennis courts. First Oak Knoll, now Hillview - surely there is a way to save these school-sited tennis courts! People from the community play on the Hillview courts every sunny weekend and weeknight and all summer long. Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto has combination basketball/tennis courts - two basketball courts run sideways across two tennis courts. Soccer players use them when the fields are too wet to play on, passing the ball over the net. I've seen volleyball players out there too. Seems like the school board just doesn't want to be bothered to think creatively about this issue.


thanks Maria
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 17, 2009 at 8:10 pm
thanks Maria, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 17, 2009 at 8:10 pm

"We have lots of other parks". Newest school board member Hilton should go check out Oak Knoll and see how accessible the remaining play area is to neighborhood kids. As in, not! It's all concrete and exposed to the blazing sun. Oh well, guess they just have to play alone in their own backyards, never to meet other kids on the playground. Typical of the way this school board has operated. Build it bigger because we have the taxpayer funded bond money to spend on edifices, not on playgrounds for the neighbor kids.
Guess the kids will have to play on Astroturf when the real grass gets torn up.


Excellent!
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm
Excellent!, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Gee, it only took 2entries before we got the Oak Knoll Neighborhood Haters to respond and back on the blog! You guys took the entire summer off, what's up with that?! Glad you're back, and we love the new campus, lots of big, new, tall buildings, with a very long drop off area!
Thank you school board, thank you Maria, for building the best school possible for our kids!


Put the students frist
Hillview Middle School
on Sep 18, 2009 at 7:30 am
Put the students frist, Hillview Middle School
on Sep 18, 2009 at 7:30 am

This is a school site, and the needs of the Hillview Students must be prioitized above non-school uses such as tennis courts and toddler playgrounds.


Tennis Player
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:51 am
Tennis Player, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 9:51 am

Dear Put the students frist (sic):

Last spring about 90 Hillview students joined the Hillview tennis team, so how are the courts a non-school use? Why are basketball courts a school use but not tennis courts? Why can't the two be combined as at Jordan?

Guess those 90 tennis-playing students (and their younger siblings) are just out of luck.


hv mom
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 11:02 am
hv mom, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 11:02 am

Hillview is the only middle school in the district. With the school population growing rapidly, the needs of the students must take precedence over a small park (there are many other places that tots can play) or a tennis court, which takes up a relatively large amount of land.

There are no "basketball courts" per se at Hillview. There is a multi, which is used for everything, including school assemblies (no auditorium at Hillview), concerts, plays, school dances, and PE classes. Yes, it has hoops on the wall so that kids can use it for basketball. If you can figure out a way to rig up a tennis court in the multi, I bet the administration would be amenable to letting kids play tennis there. But the school has no responsibility to provide recreational opportunities for non-students.

I expect the tennis players at Hillview will practice elsewhere. There are dozens of Hillview students who swim, play lacrosse, do gymnastics, participate in track & field, dance, etc -- all must pursue these extracurricular activities in a different venue. There is simply no way that Hillview can accommodate all extracurricular interests, nor should it. It is first and foremost a school that is focused on academics, not a training ground for wannabe Wimbledonians.


Another mom
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2009 at 9:46 am
Another mom, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2009 at 9:46 am

I was under the impression that the new Hillview was going to have 4 - 6 outdoor basketball courts on some kind of blacktop like they have now. It seems to me that a couple of these could be multi-use sport courts. I thought the last plan was to have them on the Santa Cruz side of the site, so they would need to have fairly high fences to keep the balls from going into the streets anyway. Why not try to serve as many needs as possible?

I seriously doubt any of the current people using the tennis courts are aiming for Wimbledon. Most are probably looking for some easy and inexpensive form of fun and exercise that doesn't require huge amounts of equipment or money, at a location they can walk or bike to from their homes.


Stephanie
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:53 pm
Stephanie, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:53 pm

I'm sorry to see all the tennis courts go, I had my first lessons on those courts many, many years ago. I never had any dreams of Wimbledon, I didn't play on my college team, and I didn't go pro. Instead I played with my sibling, cousins, and neighborhood children. I developed a healthy interest in other sports and tried them out too.

Many of our children do go elsewhere to take lessons and practice. All that means is that the parents have either money to burn or are going into debt for sports will give their children the opportunity to try these sports (tennis, basketball, etc). Yet the school board put in a soccer field when there are so many already in our town and the surrounding ones. Shouldn't the same "logic" apply? If all the children that attend Hillview (and other schools in MP) are to be well rounded, shouldn't they have access at the place they go to get the rest of their education?

I know the school needed a serious redesign, and space is severely limited...but a middle school (and even the upper grades in an elementary school) can go up. Stairs aren't impossible.

As unappreciative as this may have sounded, thank you to the school board for the work they do. You do hard work and make difficult decisions.


Betty
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:56 pm
Betty, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Pretty much all of the new buildings at Menlo Park schools are going to two story buildings, including Hillview. There's no more room to sprawl out.


hv mom
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2009 at 3:16 pm
hv mom, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2009 at 3:16 pm

There are not nearly enough soccer fields in town to accommodate all users. Note that since Atherton has no public soccer fields, MP recreational facilities must serve Atherton residents too.

Hillview will not have a dedicated soccer field per se; it will have a large area with artificial grass that will be used primarily for PE classes. Hundreds of children will use the field every day, and after hours, some of them will return to play football or soccer.

Tennis courts take a lot of room and cannot be used for a lot of different purposes, whereas a big expanse of grass can be used for other things, just as a multi can.

Many public parks have tennis courts, and residents can play on those. The school's priority is to serve students, not provide recreational space for everyone's siblings, cousins, and neighbors.


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