Almanac

News - May 4, 2011

Menlo Park: Neighbors fight to protect Flood Park

by Sandy Brundage

What is a neighborhood park worth? San Mateo County estimates $205,000. To those living near Flood Park, its more along the lines of priceless.

About 100 people crowded into Jill Olson's living room on April 28 to brainstorm ways to keep Flood Park open without straining either the county's or the city's budget. The group included representatives from the county.

Faced with needing to trim 10 percent from its operating budget, the county Board of Supervisors recommended permanently shutting down the 21-acre park, located at 215 Bay Road, which is closed until Sept. 30 anyway while the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission installs a water pipeline. The supervisors also asked Menlo Park to consider taking over park operations.

Kristin Cox, the meeting facilitator and president of the Suburban Park Homeowner Association, said the meeting wasn't about debating the viability of ideas. "We're not park rangers. We're moms and dads and community members who love the park," she said.

Ms. Cox said one idea is keeping the playground and picnic area open while fencing off the remainder of the park. Another is starting a nonprofit modeled after Friends of Bedwell-Bayfront Park.

Amy McGaraghan, who manages the Save Flood Park website, said that since the park is closed, it's been hard to reach out to everyone who uses it.

"I was saddened that it sounds like the county parks commission isn't going to change its recommendation (to close the park), that was certainly disappointing, but I was glad they were willing to come talk to us and do some outreach," she said.

Other proposals include charging walk-in park visitors; staging a concert series or other fundraisers at the park; enlisting citizen rangers; and using volunteer general contractors to make improvements to develop more sports fields at the park, according to Ms. McGaraghan.

"We used the park every day. We have young kids; that's their backyard," she said. "We're going to continue doing everything we can to tell the county and city we want the park open."

Can a city have too many parks? Mayor Rich Cline suggested that Menlo Park may be approaching the time to focus on strategic resource management instead of acquisition, now that the city has a new gym, recreational center, performing arts center, and expanded pool service at Burgess and Belle Haven.

With Flood Park, the city would also have Hillview, Kelly, Burgess parks with full soccer or lacrosse fields, and two adult baseball fields, according to the mayor's tally.

"If we miss this opportunity we will look back in disappointment. But, at the same time, we have to be aware that we have to determine the balance of recreational space and resource and passive use parks," he said.

Go to savefloodpark.org to track the group's efforts.

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