Menlo Park has begun a process to develop a 25-year "master plan" for the city's largest park, the 160-acre Bedwell Bayfront Park off Marsh Road.
An open house to collect public comment on what should be in the master plan will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the parking lot nearest the park's entrance at 1600 Marsh Road.
In February, the City Council approved a $258,000 contract with Callander Associates Landscape Architecture to develop the master plan, and a $66,000 contract with CB&I Environmental & Infrastructure Inc. to do a technical evaluation of the plan.
During an earlier open house in April, city staff sought public feedback on a long list of possible changes to park use, some of which could be opposed by residents who prefer that the park continue to be restricted to "passive recreational" use, such as hiking, running, bicycling, dog walking, bird watching, kite flying and photography. (In 2006, voters opposed a measure to build sports fields on up to 17 acres of the park.)
Among the options city staff sought comment on were adding:
• Amenities such as docent-led tours, a nature summer camp, bike repair facilities and ranger services.
• Facilities to enable activities such as orienteering, geocaching, water sports, disk golf, group exercising, and flying model or motor-assisted gliders and drones.
Other ideas were to add an off-leash enclosed dog park, a nature play area, picnic tables, public art, EV charging stations, bike parking, and an outdoor classroom or amphitheater.
Feedback on the first open house has not yet been released.
One reason efforts are in earnest to complete a park master plan is that funding to operate and maintain the park is expected to run out in about three years.
There are two park funding sources, a landfill fund and a maintenance fund, according to Azalea Mitch, a senior civil engineer with the city.
The landfill fund the park was created on the site of a former dump receives revenue from Menlo Park's solid waste fees and is used for landfill-related expenses. It can't be used for park maintenance and operations.
The maintenance fund has been dwindling from the time the park was created. Funds had accumulated from the "tipping fees" that dumpers would pay to the city for each ton of waste dumped on the site, according to David Mooney, Menlo Park parks and trees supervisor.
In 2011, the City Council opted to cut ranger services from the park, saving about $100,000 a year. Currently, the maintenance fund has $335,000 in it, and the park costs $110,000 annually to maintain, Ms. Mitch said.
Current park costs are for mowing, maintenance and janitorial work, according to staff.
Among ways to generate funds that were discussed at the open house include entrance fees, concessions, donations, naming rights, private or corporate events, and a reservation-based picnic area.
Alongside the master planning process for the park, the city is conducting a technical evaluation in the park, Ms. Mitch said.
The city's current method for dealing with the methane that is emitted from the landfill beneath the park is to burn it, thereby breaking it down into carbon dioxide. The feasibility study will look at what it would take to convert it into natural gas, which could be used to fuel vehicles that run on compressed natural gas and generate revenue.
"We are hoping that this is feasible so that we can harvest the energy from the landfill gas," Ms. Mitch said.
Click here for project updates.
• Related story: Levee changes, ecosystem restoration project imminent along Bay.