Council approves long-term plan to revamp city parks | October 23, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

News - October 23, 2019

Council approves long-term plan to revamp city parks

by Kate Bradshaw

A new multigenerational community campus and library in Belle Haven. A new community fitness center. A renovated children's center. More dog parks.

These are just a few of the recommendations to come out of a new facilities master plan for Menlo Park's parks and recreation facilities, which the City Council approved unanimously on Oct. 15.

Menlo Park hasn't updated its facilities master plan since 1999, according to staff, and the city has grown substantially since then, especially compared to other Peninsula communities, the plan states. Menlo Park's population rose 6.5% between 2000 and 2010, compared with a 2% increase in the rest of San Mateo County over the same time period, the master plan reports.

The city has dedicated just under 10% of its land to parks and recreation, and about 80% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, greater than the national average of 55%, according to the plan.

All these facts point to the argument in the report that parks are a big part of life in Menlo Park, and it's about time to consider what changes should be made to improve them for residents moving forward.

The plan, put forward by staff and consultants from Gates + Associates and Blue Point Planning, lays out priorities for the city's parks and recreation facilities for the next 20 years or so. It is the product of feedback from about 2,500 people and contains 123 recommendations for the city's 17 parks and open spaces, covering about 222 acres. Of those, staffers identified 44 recommendations as capital projects, which they then prioritized into three tiers. From there, the top priority projects were further narrowed to the following projects:

• In Belle Haven: Complete a detailed feasibility study for a Belle Haven multigenerational community campus.

• At Kelly Park: Make sure people can safely and directly access the park when a multi-use trail is installed along the Dumbarton Corridor.

• At Hamilton Park: Add a barbecue area and shade structure.

• At Karl E. Clark Park: Consider a picnic area or community garden.

• At Bedwell Bayfront Park: Move forward with planned improvements. In 2017, the council approved a separate master plan for the park that calls for renewed maintenance; hiring a park ranger and building a ranger office; adding seating, dog bag dispensers and bike racks; and updating the former dump's system for collecting gas and leachates within the next few years, as well as longer-term improvements.

• At Burgess Park: Reconfigure the baseball diamond so it can work with other sports; consider whether to install artificial turf for better year-round, all-weather play; renovate the existing playground; and consider expanding the snack shack and adding seating and shade facilities.

• At Burgess Pool: Look into installing a permanent, retractable dome over the pool.

• At Willow Oaks Park: Finish building restrooms and improving the dog park.

•At Sharon Park: Upgrade the paths, landscaping, lighting and infrastructure.

• At the Menlo Children's Center: Look into renovating the building and adding a kitchen and more storage space.

•At Nealon Park: Look into moving the dog park from the sports field to another area of the park.

The report also includes many lower-priority recommendations, including general support for adding restrooms, where feasible, as well as trash enclosures, bike racks, green infrastructure opportunities, drinking fountains, educational storyboards and shade trees in all parks. Where dogs are allowed in the city, the report also recommends adding dog waste bag dispensers and drinking water areas.

At some parks it lays out specific recommendations for additions like demonstration gardens and more dog parks. The report also recommends, at a lower priority level, projects like installing field lighting at Burgess Park, as well as potentially adding lighting and a music system at the skate park.

While these proposals are not yet funded, the council also agreed to move forward with developing cost estimates for the top priority projects. One potential funding source is the voter-approved Measure T, which in 2001 authorized $38 million in bonds for parks and recreation facilities. So far only two phases have been issued for about $25 million in capital projects. An estimated $13 million to $14 million could be generated from a third phase of such bonds, according to staff.

Facebook offer

As The Almanac recently reported, Facebook on Oct. 2 announced an offer to fund a new multistory community center that would house a library, senior center and youth center, gym and multipurpose room.

However, the specific terms of that offer have yet to be ironed out. The council on Oct. 15 voted 4-0, with Councilman Drew Combs recused (since he works at Facebook) to authorize City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson and City Attorney Bill McClure to work with Facebook to get more clarity about the offer, and work through the "legal nuts and bolts" of how the city might accept it, said Mayor Ray Mueller.

Such a project combines the parks and recreation department's vision with the library department's ongoing project to envision a new Belle Haven Library. In June, the Menlo Park City Council approved a $160,000 contract to develop concept designs for a new Belle Haven Library since the current library "is widely regarded as inadequate to meet community needs," according to city staff. The firm, Noll & Tam Architects, will also analyze potential site options and come up with preliminary cost estimates for a new library.

According to Fergus O'Shea, director of campus development at Facebook, the company expects to do community outreach and planning over the next six months to gather input about the new community center and library. When asked whether the project would include a new pool, he said he didn't yet have an answer. The pool at the Onetta Harris Community Center has been identified through a previous planning process as in need of significant repairs and refurbishing.

Go to is.gd/parksplan385 to access the facilities master plan.

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