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For stressed-out families, local doctors are prescribing a new fix: public parks

Original post made on May 11, 2019

It's no secret that getting outdoors is good for people. Bay Area health officials have been at the heart of a growing movement that encourages families and individuals to enjoy time in nature.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, May 11, 2019, 1:44 PM

Comments (15)

Posted by Peter G
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 11, 2019 at 10:26 pm

It is untrue that San Mateo tries to "get people in under-resourced communities outdoors to reap the inherent health benefits provided by sunshine, greenery and an open trail". Almost 40% of families own a dog and just want to come home at the end of a working day and put the kid in a stroller and the dog on a leash and go for a walk in the park, which is forbidden in 95% of the parks by SMC Parks & Rec. Pointless name by the way. Though if you ride a horse, you can get access to 90% of the Parks, but that probably means living in wealthy Woodside, Supervisor Horsley's district. The part about SMC Parks & Rec giving approx 2X access to older, white, college educated elites compared to the "under-resourced communites" is true. It is time to provide fair access to taxpayer funded SMC Parks for families that own dogs, up from the current 5% availability. Marin and East Bay provide more than 90% access, so the problem is clearly with SMC Parks & Rec and the Supervisors priorities.

Posted by Bill F
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 12, 2019 at 9:13 pm

I like the recommendation for a doctor to prescribe "Spend time in nature, one hour, twice a week" in San Mateo County. Nothing is more important for a healthy body and healthy mind than cardio exercise and relaxation, both accomplished when hiking/walking through the woods. Unfortunately, in San Mateo County, I can't do that with my dog. Unlike the rest of the Bay Area, almost no parks in San Mateo County allow my dog on leash to join me while I get my necessary dose of nature and activity. I can only think of a couple of trails on Windy Hill (part of the Peninsula Open Space District) and no San Mateo County parks (except maybe a few all the way on the coastside) and no GGNRA parks in San Mateo County that even allow dogs on-leash. It seems ridiculous to take a nice hike up to the meadow at Wunderlich and then come home and have to walk my dog because he's not allowed to join me. I heard there are more households in San Mateo County with dogs than kids. Imagine if you were told that you couldn't take your son with you on your walks in the woods. Makes no sense.

Thanks for a great article and would love to spend more time walking in the woods and taking advantage of all the beautiful nature San Mateo County has to offer. But I don't have the time and energy to do that and, then, come home and walk my dog.

Posted by Vivian R
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 13, 2019 at 9:35 am

In North Fair Oaks there's no open space or trails, so no wonder people rarely get out. I want to walk with my dog and I have to drive to places in the East Bay, San Francisco or Marin where there are dog-friendly trails for off-leash walking. Not very environmentally friendly, but that's what San Mateo County forces me to do by not providing open space for off-leash walking.

Posted by I see wildlife due to no dogs
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on May 13, 2019 at 10:30 am

I have a dog, I love dogs and I sometimes actually feel separation anxiety when the day goes long and I haven;t seen him to pieces.
I don;t support dogs in the OSPs though for many reasons, but the biggest is that simply by all the pee-scenting they do, the wildlife I'm used to seeing (bobcats, deer, rabbits, coyote, and once even a cougar) move out of areas when predators move in and claim as theirs. A regular influx of dogs will in fact "sanitize" an area of much of it's ground based wildlife.

You also have to plan for the lowest common denominator with regards to public use. There is simply zero chance of leash laws being observed by everyone and even one or two off leash dogs can wreck havoc. Also, by simple street and park observation, the poop will NOT be picked up by far too many.

I and my dog would be 100% perfectly behaved in the parks, but I know so many would not be, and even if 100% were on leash, the wildlife gets driven out.
There are really good reasons all dogs can't go everywhere.

Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 13, 2019 at 10:56 am

I'm sympathetic to people who want more places to walk their dog on leash, but people should acknowledge the problems that occur when you have a number of unleashed dogs in public space; those rules did not appear in a vacuum. It's not pleasant to be walking out in nature when someone's large dog, of unknown disposition, decides to "greet" you. Someone might own the sweetest dog in the world, but they have to write the rules for the bad cases. There are dog parks available.

Posted by Mocha W.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 13, 2019 at 12:00 pm

It would great to have options for enjoying the outdoors with my dog, but there are so few places in San Mateo County that allow it. The article mentions research on the many health benefits to individuals from connecting with nature. While it might seem obvious to pet owners, there is also research showing that dog walking has broad community benefits, including strengthening the social fabric of a community. The unequal access is unfortunate. When Chicago opened a 2.7 mile long dog-friendly trail in 2015 (the 606, along an old railroad line) ) they found a reduction in crime in neighborhoods closest to the trail, with the largest decrease in lower-income neighborhoods (results published in the journal Environment and Behavior).

Posted by diesel
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2019 at 12:58 pm

diesel is a registered user.

Bedwell Bayfront Park along Menlo Park's Bay frontage is a nice nearby open space. It's not redwoods and native wildflowers and all that, but does allow leashed dogs and is valued by the many families who go there with kids in strollers and on bikes. Views from the hills extend over the bay and wildlife refuge. It's managed by Menlo Park, but is free to all. The city is gradually improving it in accordance with the Master Plan.
Regarding leashed dogs: our open spaces should accommodate other species besides humans. After all, seeing pocket gophers, banana slugs, birds, deer -- all that is part of our experience. Even leashed dogs can scare or stress the wildlife.

Posted by La Hondan
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Wow. Such whining from dog owners (BTW, I've been a dog owner my whole life.) First of all, horses on the trails have nothing to do with dogs on the trails. Horses are in conflict with mountain bikers, who are usually the ones who complain about horses on trails. And please don't roll out the tired, "All horse owners are rich" trope. There are plenty of people out here in the rural part of the county who aren't rich, but who are teachers and nurses who love horses, live out here because they can have a horse here affordably, and ride on the local trails.

Second, Don Horsley also represents some of the poorest rural areas of SM County and he does so well. Study the SM County Supervisorial District map, and you'll see that farmers and farm workers on the rural coast are also ably represented by Supervisor Horsley and he's the first Sup we've had in awhile who didn't completely ignore the rural Coast in favor of Menlo Park and Woodside, so try again with that trope.

Finally, the reason why dogs are not permitted on many trails are because selfish, rude people let their dogs go off of leash, chase wildlife, attack other people's dogs and children and leave their dog droppings everywhere without picking it up.

Posted by diesel
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2019 at 4:22 pm

diesel is a registered user.

To Vivian R - is Bedwell Bayfront park an option for you and your dog? Many N. Fair Oaks people use it, both from the MP and RWC N. Fair Oaks.

Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 14, 2019 at 3:21 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Interesting story about the GGNRA
Web Link

"GGNRA officials and their co-conspirators purposefully carried out their collusion using the personal/private e-mail addresses of GGNRA officials, including the GGNRA’s Public Affairs and FOIA Officer, who also instructed GGNRA colleagues to delete e-mails that reflected this misconduct. With the GGNRA trying to ram the final proposed rules through in late 2016, this effort was thwarted by the posting on the “Woofieleaks” website yet more e-mails revealing the GGNRA’s record destruction, collusion with “park partners,” bias against groups supportive of dog walking, and use of private e-mails to orchestrate and conceal the conspiracy."

Also see: Web Link

I have a copy of a 1967 report entitled "Recreational Potential of The Junipero Serra Freeway Through the Upper Crystal Springs Watershed" prepared for the State of California Division of Highways by Hall and Goodhue, Architects and City Planners, and Robert Trent Jones, Inc., Golf Course Architects.

GGNRA and the San Francisco Water Dept. put the kabosh on the plans in that report.
"The four-mile section of the drive now under study will be like a four-minute reel of a movie travelogue extolling the beauty of and variety of the natural Peninsula landscape, enhanced by the green grass of golf courses and the the contrasting blue of several lakes.

Maybe the pro-bono attorneys, who took on the GGNRA for the dog owners, can do it again for the rest of us. There's more than enough open-space for all of us. (even the homeless)

Posted by golf is dying
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on May 14, 2019 at 4:38 pm

...a 1967 'report' by a golf course developer.

Oy, vey.

Mr. Hickey has a golf course about a mile from his home in Redwood City, and it is so underutilized that one can walk on to the course frequently during any given week. He has long jonesed for a course within 2 miles of the underutilized course.

And Crystal Springs Golf Course is a couple exits away from Edgewood, about ten minutes.

He wants to use public land to have two golf courses next to each other, three within minutes.

At the risk of repeating myself: oy vey.


google 'golf is dying':
Golf is dying, many experts say. According to one study by the golf industry group Pellucid Corp., the number of regular golfers fell from 30 to 20.9 million between 2002 and 2016. ... Unless the golf industry can change its ways, the decline will mean a lot of empty greens across the country.

Posted by Fair
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 16, 2019 at 7:32 am

If 40% of families have dogs then the fair solution would be for 40% of parks to permit leashed dogs, not 5% which is the current state.

Having 1-2 parks way across town doesn't benefit most people.

I walk in the rare parks that allow dogs and see plenty of deer and other wildlife.

Posted by Mike G.
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 16, 2019 at 9:40 am

"If 40% of families have dogs then the fair solution would be for 40% of parks to permit leashed dogs, not 5% which is the current state."

It doesn't work that way. The reason dogs are not allowed is not because they think too few families own dogs and that 100% of dog owning families are "Entitled" to use the park. The decision is based on each specific area, applying science and real life expectations.

Though anecdotal stories don't bare much weight, my observations differ.

The parks I walk my dog in has no where near the amount of wildlife I see in no dog areas.
I also see off leash dogs every single time I go as well as regularly seeing dog poop. My dog "Triggers" to poop when he comes across another dog's poop so I tend to find it a lot and pick it up, two for one bag. (Your welcome to those selfish dog owners)

You dog will be totally happy to visit any of the current dog allowed OSP parks. There's a good variety of options.
Web Link
Care must always be given when bringing a non-natural, predator capable animal into a natural setting, for all the many reasons everyone else made in the above posts.

Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 20, 2019 at 9:34 am

Something obvious to point out: the 40% of dog owners are free to use the parks in every way the 60% of non-dog owners use them. They just can't bring their dogs to some of those parks.

Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 20, 2019 at 2:04 pm

Very curious that Santa Clara County park user demographics closely match the demographics of the general population, while San Mateo County park users are much different from the general population. I believe a big part of the problem is the heavy use of horses in San Mateo County parks which leaves a stench that greatly discourages others from using the same parks. San Mateo County parks also ban bicycle riding on most park trails, which is a much more popular activity with lower income residents.

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