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By Cathy Kirkman

About this blog: This blog explores life in Palo Alto with our dogs, cats and other pets, as well as the urban wildlife around us, the title being a reference to Sharon Creech's lovely story, "Love That Dog." I grew up in Palo Alto surrounded by ...  (More)

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The Future of our Parks: Public Workshops this Week

Uploaded: Oct 26, 2014
Thanks to Howard Hoffman of Palo Alto Dog Owners, for forwarding the city's announcement about two public workshops to be held this week on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I did a Q&A with Howard earlier this year; he's a consistent presence on the scene with the interests of dog owners in mind. If you care about the future of our parks, and I think we all do, please take note, and try to attend or to send your comments to the city.

Here's the text of the announcement:


Join us for an interactive workshops on the Palo Alto Parks, Trails, Open Space and Recreation Master Plan.

Tuesday, October 28, 6pm-8pm at the Downtown Library, 270 Forest Avenue
Wednesday, October 29, 6pm-8pm in Room H1 at the Cubberley Community Center, 400 Middlefield Road

The meetings will have identical agendas and programs, and residents are encouraged to attend the meeting that is most convenient.

The City is creating a long-range master plan for our parks, trails, open space and recreation system to create a vision for our parks and recreation system that guides future improvements and investments.

We need the community?s continued input and ideas to complete the plan. Please join us for an interactive workshop where you will have the opportunity to provide your ideas and discuss the future of Palo Alto?s parks and recreation system.

Your input will guide the master plan?s recommendations for new and sustained programs and infrastructure.

Palo Alto?s parks and recreation system includes our small neighborhood parks and large regional open spaces, as well as the streets and paths that connect us to these places and the activities we do while we?re there.

We are considering every aspect of the system from playgrounds and trails to classes and community space, and most importantly we are looking at how all the pieces of our parks and recreation system work together to meet the needs of our residents.

At the workshop, we will discuss:
The purpose of the plan
What we?ve done so far
What we heard from residents through outreach this summer
Ideas and preferences for new activities or amenities
Priorities for natural areas and open spaces to preserve and protect.

Please forward this email about the Plan and the workshops to your colleagues, neighbors and friends. For more information, visit our website or call 650-617-3183.

Peter Jensen ASLA
City of Palo Alto


I'm guessing that if you can't attend, Peter would appreciate your comments via email:

The city is in the process of creating a master plan for our parks and open space. You can find a number of useful background documents there to get up to speed. This process is important because it will drive what we do for our parks and when for many years. There was a time when Peers Park in my neighborhood was getting rather seedy, and it took forever to get it updated. I'm guessing that it was already determined in some uber universe when they were going to get around to it, so notwithstanding many neighborhood complaints, it took a really long time.

So think about your local parks: this would be a good time to be proactive and tell the city what you want out of our parks and open space. I'm hoping to learn more about the city's process, but I did want to blog about this now to let people know about the workshop meetings this week.

As a mother, for me children come first at parks, so we need to ensure that all of our parks have up-to-date, fun and safe play facilities for the little ones. And modern recreation space for older kids and adults. Those were our problems at Peers Park for a good while.

But another feature that I care about is some planning for dog space. It doesn't seem like we have done that much planning as a community on this in the past, and this is important because we all live close by together in this suburban landscape. And we all know that some people off-leash their dogs sometimes, even though it is a violation of the leash law. It can make people uncomfortable, and sometimes it can be downright unsafe.

As a dog person, setting aside the legalities of the matter, I feel your dog has to have an absolutely rock-solid recall to be allowed off-leash, which very, very few dogs actually have. Even my best dog has a thing sometimes for squirrels. The farthest I will go in an urban setting is to use a long drag line to give dogs room to stretch their legs and chase a ball without the risk of having them take off.

So why not plan for this inevitable co-habitation of people and dogs at parks, and engineer solutions that benefit everyone? Let's build facilities for dog owners into our master plan. Then hopefully everyone would be happy.

We do have a couple of dog runs south of Oregon Expressway, at Hoover Park and Mitchell Park, but we could use more. In Mountain View, the mini-park that was included in the public benefits for San Antonio Center show that a dog park can be built to fit within the space available and still become a valuable community asset. See my photos here of that attractive facility.

Ideally, there could be an appropriately scaled facility for dog owners at each park (unless they're just too small), so dog owners have a place within walking distance of their homes to exercise their dogs, without impacting other people. It's nice that the city is doing a pilot shared usage concept, but you shouldn't have to get in your car and drive to go exercise your dog. Also, sports field users shouldn't have to worry about doggie doo, so the shared usage concept will require a real commitment not to let the kids down in order to make it work.

Here are a few quick ideas about how a dog run might be included in various parks, though it would have to be done with minimal impact on present usage. I'm not singling out specific parks, just throwing out a few examples based on some of the parks I can think of. These are just ideas, not diligenced or vetted in any way, so please treat them as such and share your ideas if you would, especially if you live closer to these parks than I do, or have ideas for other parks.

1. Peers Park: Put a dog run along the train tracks in the non-grassy area under the trees. Nobody uses that space.

2. Bowden Park: Put a dog run in the grassy area along Alma. No one wants their kids on that grass because it's near the traffic.

3. Kellogg Park (@ the Lawn Bowling Green). Put a little dog place along the grass adjacent to Embarcadero; kids use the grass on the other Churchill side to play football, etc.

4. Hopkins Creekside (along Palo Alto Avenue). Put a dog run at one of these little pocket parks, right now they're just grass and a couple picnic tables, pretty quiet.

5. Mayfield Park (@ College Terrace Library). Put a dog run out back on the grass there, or in one of the other pocket parks in College Terrace.

6. Foothills Park: Put a dog run as part of the Lee gift land of 7.7 acres, also known as the almost sold to John Arrillaga land. It's down at the end of the picnic area, and supposedly is not a very useful space, so a dog run might be part of the answer.

Looking forward to hearing more about the park master plan process.
What is it worth to you?


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