In the latest Around Town column, a rundown of a new place for Midpeninsula nature lovers to roam, the lack of local measures on the November ballot in Palo Alto and a growing website where teens can connect while sheltering at home.
MORE ROOM TO ROAM ... The wait is over for nature lovers looking to hike on a new section of the Bay Trail. The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District has opened its latest trail extension at the Ravenswood Preserve, accessible from East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Starting on Friday, Aug. 7, bicyclists and pedestrians can access the 0.6-mile extension, which includes an elevated boardwalk over the marshland. "The wetlands around the San Francisco Bay are very sensitive, and they are home to major wildlife species. Midpen took a lot of care in building this trail, particularly in the area where there are wetlands," Midpen public affairs specialist Leigh Ann Gessner said. Crews also improved a 1.5-mile pathway on property owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Most of the work happened from September 2019 through January, to avoid the nesting period for the Ridgway's rail, one of the near-threatened bird species that call the open space home. Crews also built a bridge that connects to the boardwalk and features interpretive signs to help visitors better understand the local ecosystem. The signage areas on the boardwalk's scenic overlook are prime spots to birdwatch, Gessner added. The project was briefly put on hold earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the district was already far enough along the project to be able to wrap it up by this month. The district scheduled an online celebration for the new trail at 11 a.m. on Aug. 7, during which the public could take a virtual tour and learn about the planning and construction work for the project. For more information, visit openspace.org/preserves/ravenswood.
ELECTION RUNDOWN ... Palo Alto voters will have at least nine City Council candidates to choose from when they cast — or mail in — their ballots this fall. But, somewhat unexpectedly, they will not get to weigh in on a slew of local measures that were making their way to the ballot earlier this year, according to City Clerk Beth Minor. The pandemic seemed to put many local issues on hold, including a business tax that the City Council had been exploring for more than a year. The proposal was abandoned in March as the emerging pandemic and economic shutdown began to threaten the business community. The pandemic also hampered a proposal by a group of students to lower the voting age for local elections to 16. The group, Vote16 Palo Alto, was preparing to gather signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot but had to drop its plan in the spring after the shelter-in-place orders took effect. Also not appearing on the November ballot will be two proposed initiatives from Kevin Creaven, a supporter of former Democratic U.S. Presidential candidateElizabeth Warren. Creaven recently moved to Palo Alto with the goal of creating the nation's first wealth tax here. In addition, he was pursuing a second initiative that would have banned the sale of gasoline-fueled cars that cost more than $50,000. Neither petition appears to have collected the needed 2,392 signatures to advance to the ballot.
TEENS LAUNCH ONLINE COMMUNITY ... Two rising Gunn High School seniors are behind QuaranTEEN, a pandemic-born online community that aims to keep teenagers connected during shelter-in-place. The growing, and now international, website (qteen.net) includes teen-authored blog posts on everything from muffin recipes to mental health and the Black Lives Matter movement, plus resources for working parents, a fundraiser for local businesses hit hard by the shutdown and a virtual pen pal exchange. Gunn students Katie Kudriavtsev and Sarah Emberling "wanted to do something to combat the stress, negativity and hopelessness that people around the world were feeling as a result of this pandemic, and that's how QuaranTEEN was born: a social and creative outlet for teenagers around the world and an opportunity to make friends, express themselves, and get involved with a great cause, as well as a place for parents to find resources for childcare," the website reads. Interested teens can apply to write blog posts or get involved in other ways.