Guest opinion: Menlo Park celebrates with sesquicentennial weekend | October 23, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - October 23, 2013

Guest opinion: Menlo Park celebrates with sesquicentennial weekend

by Peter Ohtaki

Over the weekend, Caltrain celebrated the 150th anniversary of train service from San Francisco to Menlo Park, which began in 1863. I also had the honor of commemorating another sesquicentennial event: signing a friendship agreement between Menlo Park and the city of Galway, Ireland. These two events are linked by our history.

Just three months after the Civil War battle of Gettysburg and one month before Lincoln's Gettysburg address, at the western edge of the continent, a railroad line began service from San Francisco half way down the Peninsula. At the end of the line, workers saw a gate built by two men from Galway, Dennis Oliver and Daniel McGlynn, that had the words "Menlo Park" on it, named after their beloved village of Menlough in Galway. The train station was named Menlo Park, and so, our town was born.

It is appropriate to pause and celebrate the 150th anniversary of Menlo Park as a town, even though we weren't incorporated until much later. It gives us an opportunity to look back on where we've come and to look forward to our future.

We've seen a lot of changes in Menlo Park since 1863. Then, we were considered a suburb of San Francisco — a place for business people to escape for the summer. Through the 1970s, the train carried commuters primarily to jobs in San Francisco.

Over the last few decades, we've been considered a charming suburb in Silicon Valley, as folks began commuting south. More recently, Menlo Park has become a center of global innovation, with the location here of Facebook and major venture capital firms that now fund start-ups worldwide. As I like to say, in many ways, the future begins in Menlo Park.

So it's not a surprise that 150 years later, we are challenged with balancing two highly desired but often conflicting goals in our community — maintaining village character while encouraging economic vibrancy. I believe we are in the enviable position of embracing our status as a center for innovation while managing its impact on our residential quality of life. We welcome your input in this ongoing dialogue.

Peter Ohtaki is mayor of Menlo Park.


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