Under a 25-year master plan for Bedwell Bayfront Park, unanimously approved Nov. 14 by the Menlo Park City Council, the city plans to invest in a park ranger, more accessible trails, park infrastructure, and educational spaces and programs.
A few ideas to expand the range of allowed activities at the 160-acre park were rejected. Among them: installing a kayak launch, adding an off-leash dog-run area, and allowing hobbyists to fly a certain type of remote-controlled airplanes.
Those hobbyists were less than thrilled with the council's decision. Five of them spoke at the council meeting.
An outdoor "classroom" area with seating for two classes of students did receive council approval.
Improvements at the park, located at the bayside terminus of Marsh Road, are estimated to cost $9 million over 25 years. The master plan was developed by consultants from Callander & Associates in response to community outreach events and surveys.
About a year ago, the council approved a ban on drones and all remote-controlled aircraft. The matter was slated for reconsideration during the park's master plan process.
Multiple flyers defended their hobby, arguing that the gliders can be no worse for the nerves of local avian life than a 46-foot-long kite that the city endorses at its annual kite day at the park. (In previous discussions of the topic, bird defenders argued that large airborne objects can look like predators and may scare away nesting birds.)
"I’ve always loved and respected birds," said hobbyist Ed Canty, prefacing his remarks. Like the Great Spirit Trail at the park, he said, "There are spirit trails in the sky above the park," referring to the thermal routes that birds, and his airplanes, ride upward in the sky.
Finding those thermals with his plane, he said, gives him the "same spiritual exhilaration" as others may feel walking and reading about the spirit trail on the ground. Plus, he noted, "the sky is enormous," and "I couldn't catch a hawk if I tried."
Councilwoman Catherine Carlton and Councilman Peter Ohtaki suggested a one-year trial during which gliders would be allowed. "We've had gliders there for 30 years and still have enough birds," Ms. Carlton said, noting that she'd support it only with "severe rules."
Councilman Rich Cline asked what mitigation measures had been considered and assessment conducted.
Mayor Kirsten Keith told attendees, "I like what you do, but I don't want it done at Bedwell Bayfront Park."
Councilman Ray Mueller said he supports the ban because allowing them is a liability issue. "I want to vote for you, but with two airports this close I just can't go there," he said.
The park is within five miles of the Palo Alto and San Carlos airports that require people flying hobby aircraft to alert the Federal Aviation Administration and keep the machines from flying above a certain height.
No kayak launch
Davena Gentry, who kayaks in the Bay, said the park's Flood Slough isn't a great place for launching kayaks. You have to travel far to get through the marshes and into the Bay, and, she added, there's a good chance it would be impassable at low tide. There are kayak launches in Redwood City and Palo Alto.
Mayor Keith said she didn't see support for adding an off-leash dog park. People are permitted to walk dogs on-leash there.
Changes at the park would be done in three phases:
● In the next five years: Deal with deferred maintenance; improve access to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; install a ranger's office; add seating, dog bag dispensers and bike racks; upgrade the gas and leachate collection system; and expand the fire-suppression system.
● In five to 10 years: Install an automatic gate and entrance system; make some areas of the park more wheelchair-accessible by paving some paths with asphalt and others with a resin-based pavement; replace the bathrooms; add fitness stations; and prepare for a foot of sea level rise.
● In 10 to 25 years: Prepare for another foot of sea level rise; and renovate the park's "Great Spirit Path" art.
By the end of the first phase, annual operations and maintenance costs are expected to rise from $110,000 to $330,000 a year. By the end of the third phase, those costs could rise to $480,000 a year.
These estimates assume the addition of a park ranger and would cover costs for capital repairs, maintenance, utilities and contingencies.