News - March 30, 2011

County to Menlo: Please take Flood Park

by Sandy Brundage

Needing to slice 10 percent off San Mateo County's general fund operating budget, administrators scrambled to find ways to save $655,000 on the county's 17 parks. One proposal asks Menlo Park to take over Flood Park, a wedge of land sandwiched between Bay Road and the Bayshore Freeway.

Public Works Director Jim Porter said the county has already eliminated the parks director position, a gardener slot, and four vacant positions. "But that puts us at a staffing level that can't operate the entire park system," he said.

The county Board of Supervisors reluctantly recommended shutting down the 21-acre Flood Park, which is closed until September 30 anyway while the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission installs a water pipeline. The park is recommended for closure because it's easy to fence off and other parks are available nearby, Mr. Porter explained.

"To keep it open, we'd have to find $205,000 somewhere and the parks (department) doesn't have that money," he said.

The county either has to find the money, or find someone to take the property off its hands, and that's where Menlo Park comes in. Community Services Director Cherise Brandell said city staff met with county representatives on March 22 to explore the associated costs.

"The City is facing major budget impacts if (redevelopment agencies) are taken away by the State that would limit our options for the park, if not eliminate the possibility of taking it over completely," Ms. Brandell wrote in an email to the Almanac. "Even with the (redevelopment agency), the costs to maintain and complete capital projects at the Park would be a major financial challenge."

She said the Board of Supervisors may make its final decision about the park in May.

County data showed 75,000 visitors to Flood Park last year. The City Council and county administrators have received a significant number of emails from park visitors and neighbors, asking that the park stay open.

Menlo Park resident Jen Primuth wrote about seeing athletes and children at the park every weekend and often during lunchtime. She also asked whether closing the park could lead to higher crime rates.

"I'm concerned that if the park is closed, it won't really keep people from the park, but (the park) simply won't be maintained and could actually become a magnet for illegal activities like drug dealing & prostitution in our neighborhood," she wrote.

Former county sheriff and current Supervisor Don Horsley said he suspects a park can't really be closed since people will still enter an unsupervised park.

"I don't necessarily think that crime will spill out into surrounding neighborhoods, but a closed park could become a nuisance problem," Mr. Horsley said, adding that he is hopeful the county could find a better solution.


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