By Chris Cooney
Bay City News Service
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Thursday approved a plan that will temporarily keep Flood Park open through the beginning of next year.
The 21-acre public space off Bay Road in Menlo Park had been slated for closure this year, when the county indicated it would have to keep Flood Park closed to save about $200,000 in annual maintenance fees. The park is currently closed to accommodate the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is replacing a water supply pipeline through the area as part of its $4.6 billion project to rebuild the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System.
The project is expected to keep the park closed until September, when the county's budget had included a proposal to make the closure permanent to cut costs.
A well-organized community reaction led to the formation of Friends of Flood Park and Save Flood Park, two groups that engaged residents, Menlo Park city officials, county supervisors and department heads in an effort to keep the park open.
During a third day of budget hearings, supervisors on Thursday agreed on a plan that will restore approximately $155,000 to the Department of Public Works, which will use the funds to reopen Flood Park when the SFPUC's construction project has been completed.
"We have anticipated keeping Flood Park open for six months with the bridge money we've received," public works director Jim Porter said.
The department will be able to keep the park open through March 31, 2012, during which time the county can work with residents and Menlo Park officials toward a solution that would permanently avert any type of closure, Porter said.
Board president Carole Groom said that closing Flood Park was not an option. "Some way or another, we have to keep it open," she said.
County Manager David Boesch said the county is investigating different scenarios that would save the park, including an "active ongoing conversation" with the city of Menlo Park regarding a possible transfer of the property to that city's jurisdiction.
Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said that even in tough economic times, closing Flood Park -- or any county park -- should be avoided, but cautioned against selling or transferring ownership of the county's interest in Flood Park in order to save it.
The board directed public works staff to come back before September with an update on the status of the SFPUC project, reopening Flood Park to the public, and negotiations that would keep it open permanently.
Kristin Cox, president of Save Flood Park and Friends of Flood Park, expressed "intense gratitude" to the supervisors for their action, and said plans were under way with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to create a nonprofit that could establish a long-term funding stream to help maintain the park.
"I know we've got people in the community who want to come forward with their time or their checkbooks," Cox said.