News - February 2, 2011

Park advocates oppose 1,000-tree plan in Menlo Park

by Sandy Brundage

A plan to plant 1,000 trees in Bedwell Bayfront Park to reduce carbon dioxide has stirred concern among the park's advocates.

The Menlo Park City Council voted 3-2 on Jan. 25 with Kirsten Keith and Andy Cohen dissenting, to proceed with a state grant application for $350,000 to cover the costs of planting the trees and maintaining them for two years.

"What happens after two years?" Ms. Keith asked. She also noted that no one from the community spoke in favor of the project during the Jan. 25 meeting.

Several members of the Friends of Bedwell Bayfront Park spoke against the plan, wondering why community members weren't consulted, and why the city declined to first conduct an environmental impact review (EIR).

Alan Bedwell, son of former city manager Mike Bedwll, for whom the park is named, described the warning signs he saw of potential problems. "Lack of knowledge of the depth of soil, the Environmental Quality Commission failing to fully endorse this, the lack of an EIR."

He offered the group's services to help the city find alternate ways to improve the former landfill that would still preserve its open-space character and wildlife habitat.

Rebecca Fotu, environmental programs manager, explained that the application's February deadline didn't leave enough time for an EIR. She also pointed out adjustments already made to the plan in response to public concerns, such as hiring an expert to measure soil depth to see whether trees could be planted without the risk of roots penetrating the landfill cap.

Voting to approve the application, council members Rich Cline and Kelly Fergusson urged the city to tap community expertise going forward to ensure the park's welfare. So did Peter Ohtaki, who said he'd support applying now in case the state funds weren't available next year.


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