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Open Foothills Park to all? The costs are high, panel says

Original post made on Jul 29, 2020

More visitors -- regardless of ZIP code -- and the behaviors they exhibit would affect the health of Foothills Park, a panel of five experts said Tuesday before the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 9:34 AM

Comments (33)

4 people like this
Posted by PalyGirl-OK
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 9:57 am

It is to be expected.

19 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 29, 2020 at 10:27 am

It's time to ban dogs from the park. Most are unleashed and chase wildlife. Owners often ignore the deposits of canine fecal matter their pets leave behind.

When was the park established? I thought it was in the early '70s, not the 1950s.

5 people like this
Posted by 94303
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 29, 2020 at 10:28 am

This has nothing to do with zip codes. My 94303 zip code is shared with East Palo Alto. I can enter the park because I live in Palo Alto even though I have an East Palo Alto zip code. Likewise, those who live in East Palo Alto and have the same 94303 zip code are not able.

Zip code has nothing to do with it!

1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2020 at 10:47 am

Posted by 94303, a resident of Palo Verde

>> This has nothing to do with zip codes.

Yes, this is particularly dumb slang that has turned into a slogan. The post office doesn't assign zip codes on the basis of property values or, "location", in the sense of real estate "location, location, location". But, people find it a cute shorthand. Who remembers "23 skidoo"? The above usage of zipcode will likewise be forgotten eventually, unless the assignment of zipcodes is farmed out to the California Real Estate Association.

5 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:01 am

Either it's a park or it's not a park. Parks let humans in to appreciate nature.
I appreciate all this work and study that's being done on the impact of people and dogs, but I failed to see how this is related to whether people outside of Palo Alto can enter the park. I think if they want to limit entrance it should be a certain number of passes regardless of residence.
This issue is so localized that I think people are failing to see the big picture.

58 people like this
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:19 am

As one of the original supporters of Foothills Park, I do not think it appropriate to open this park to the general public. My reasons are simple:
(1) increases fire risk hugely
(2) impacts from over-use would be profound on this beautiful venue
(3) increases the cost to the city at a time that revenues are tanking and far more important priorities need attention (housing, flood control, fixing Lucie Stern which is completely out-of-date with inadequate toilets, etc etc.)

This park isn't elitist. It was supposed to have been a regional park and that was turned down by our neighbors. We funded it and frankly, there are plenty of other places people can go who want to experience rural CA.

The road to the Park is already jammed with bikeriders and cars traveling too fast and not carefully.

11 people like this
Posted by Stephen Rock
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:32 am

Being retired, I have the luxury of visiting Foothills Park on weekdays. I either drive, or walk by way of Arastradero Preserve. My experience is that the trails have very very few people. Walking for a few hours on the Los Trancos trail and the various fire roads we typically see only a few other people. Even at lookout point there are very few people on the trails. On weekdays there were no employees at the auto entrance gate, so anyone could enter.
We were at the park one Sunday afternoon and there was plenty of space for groups to spread out under the trees. The loudest noises were from a large group of kids and adults playing some kind of game on the meadow.
While more people might make the meadow and lake area more crowded and less hospitable to wildlife, the huge 'back country' is almost human free. My impression is that the meadow and lake areas are artificial environments built and maintained by the city. I don't think a green lawn would survive without watering or the lake without the dam. To complain that wildlife in this human made environment would be adversely effected is a distortion of what is 'natural'.
I am completely in favor of opening the park up to everyone. Palo Alto people can go to any of the Open Space Preserves, the San Mateo County parks or the extensive system of paths and parks in Los Altos Hills. However, I don't think that a pilot program during the special circumstances of the covid crisis would measure what would happen once we return to normal life (hopefully).

42 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:43 am

Let’s just open up all our public schools to those living outside Palo Alto while we are at it.

This is an asset in Palo Alto that Palo Altons fund. Protestors already marked it with graffiti that had to be cleaned up. They don’t care about access to the space. They care about the IDEA of not having access to it. Buy and fund your own educational spaces.

32 people like this
Posted by Lynn
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:43 am

Only open to PA resident if only PA will absorb the cost

43 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 29, 2020 at 11:47 am

I worry about overpopulation destroying the park. I also worry about the decreased revenue in the city. The park is open to the public during the week due to the absence of personnel at the gate.

Lets leave it the way it is right now.

23 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:03 pm

If the costs are high, make sure the admission charge covers all the costs.

Don't build more parking lots. Stop admitting more cars when the parking lots are full. Monitoring and restricting parking is a good way to prevent overcrowding.

13 people like this
Posted by Preserve wilderness
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:06 pm

It is clear that there is not enough open space and park space for the over-popluated humans in this area. Demanding that we open protected areas to more people will only destroy these areas. What we really need is much more urban park space and more protected wilderness that restricts humans from destroying it. Remember that the city of Palo Alto has in its comprehensive plan that we are suppose to have a certain amount of urban park space per 1000 residents. At this point they are more than 100 acres behind.

Why isn't the Parks commission looking for ways to get funding to buy and develop more park space where people can use it. Why force them to drive and invade wilderness areas to play their music and BBQ. We need a dedicated funding source to buy and develop land for parks and to provide the services that were promised to us in the comprehensive plan.

What we don't need is more people given that there are not enough open spaces for the people who are here now. Don't destroy Foothills park and fight development/growth that adds more people to this area. Make people understand the ramifications of overpopulation and that they need more parks and open space in town open for usage.

6 people like this
Posted by Rich Lee
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:10 pm

I agree with the observations of Steven Rock. Although my mailbox is within the city limits of Palo Alto, my house is in unincorporated San Mateo County and I usually restrict my visits to weekdays when nobody's checking. I rode my bike home yesterday afternoon through Arastradero Preserve into Foothills Park and up Los Trancos Trail. This was to avoid the increased traffic on Page Mill Rd. Members of the Lee family, including myself have been bicycling, riding horses and even driving on the firebreak (in my dad's '57 Porsche speedster) from Portola Valley to the top of Page Mill Rd. on some of the park trails over the past 50 years, long before bikes were banned on park trails. Yesterday I counted less than a dozen cars from Vista Point to the picnic area and nobody on the "backcountry" trails. I agree that the greatest population density, public use and source of impact are in the developed areas near the roads. If the noise and crowds bother you then simply get out on the trails where you probably find almost nobody.
It appears that the issue for opening the park to "outsiders" is really one of adequate funding for resource management. There are enough multi-millionaires and billionaires in the area that I'm sure could provide an endowment to cover those costs through existing or future philanthropy organizations. How much effort has been placed in approaching them?

If and when such funds are available, I would like to see some set aside for a "multi-use" trail (Hikers, bikes and horses) through the park to MROSD lands to the top of Page Mill Rd. The ideal route would be on Trapper's firebreak road that does connect to Los Trancos Rd., but that connection is now on undeveloped land owned by John Arrillaga.

20 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Turn the study over to the Rail Committee. It will die a slow death there.

28 people like this
Posted by Henny Penny Analogy Is Apt.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:47 pm

The "neighbors|" who are most likely to use it are those who live in close proximity. That is not EPA, it is Los Altos Hills and Los Altos. They declined to be partners in the purchase of this land. They are wealthy communities that can well afford to be partners in caring for it now if they want access. Engage them. Palo Alto is grappling with severe budget problems right now. If they are unwilling to share in the COST, then they don't get access.

Our city is already far more generous than other cities on the Peninsula creating and sharing our beautiful parks and public facilities. This is not just a park, it is a NATURE PRESERVE. We need to designate the preserve portion as such for starters. We need to invite the nearby wealthy communities who want access neighbors to be partners.

If they refuse again, they will have given a clear indication of their perception of our relationship.--that they prefer to abuse our generosity rather than cooperate and share in maintaining a resource they want to use. That is not a healthy relationship, and we should not allow it. LAH and Los Altos can fully afford to partner in paying for the additional cost of managing the land for more intensive use and the additional liability/insurance costs of increasing use.

Fire danger increases with increased use. Who do you think the owners of those LAH mansions will come to for compensation if a fire on the preserve spreads to their expensive homes (even though they love to point to the views they enjoy that add value to their real estate). I am feeling impatient with the PARC on this. They are entirely missing what the real issues are. This is not about EPA or BLM. This is about LAH and Los Altos who need to step up and do their fair share.

The Henny Penny analogy is apt. This matter should be a VERY low priority in this moment. Drop it.

19 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 12:47 pm

I wonder if I'd be allowed in. I grew up on Palo Alto, my husband and I still own our home in Palo Alto. but we're currently living in "another community." Would I have to come as a "guest?" I do have friends and family in Palo Alto. Hmm.

Seriously, if Palo Alto residents are picking up the tab, then it should remain as is. This "everybody deserves a trophy" mindset needs to end.

28 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 1:07 pm

How much money and time are we doing to spend on this insignificant issue - at
a time when every ounce of extra bandwidth should be devoted to dealing with
Covid-19 and its many impacts?

End this needlessly annoying discussion with its many threads and endless buts.
There is simply no reason to change anything. If there was there would be one
simple straightforward argument, and it would be an up/down vote based on that
appeal. I've read most of the articles and most of the comments and they all say
the same thing in a slightly different way. We hear all these bizarre, appeals shooting
off in every possible tangent trying to make 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 add up to to something
other than 0.

Sorry to be blunt but I am tired of having my intelligence insulted by what are really
annoying and dishonest solutions to something that seems to be more about trolls
trying to alarm everyone about a problem that doesn't really exist.

14 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 29, 2020 at 2:30 pm

I must be getting old! My wife, Garnet, and I went to the grand opening dedication ceremony at Vista Point. That was in 1965 and we were relatively new to the community then. We moved here in 1961 and bought our house in 1963. At the dedication ceremony we heard about the history of the area and the gift, for a price, from Dr. Lee, with restrictions. Our PA city council members voted to pay the price. Neighboring communities opted out on participating in the cost. The mayor spoke at the dedication but I don't remember who that was, and other dignitaries added their obligatory speeches to the event as well. I think there was a ribbon cutting ceremony and I remember food being served as well. I think it was simple but healthy food, but It might have only been cake. Come on, give me a break...let me live with my memories and not criticize me if I get some of them wrong. I have lived many years to allow them to be perceived as being wrong.

We visited the park as a family for many years while our kids were growing up. On trails our twin sons loved to chase lizards, and one day they learned about rattlesnakes from a ranger who met them at the bottom of a trail coming down to Wildhorse Valley. The ranger had killed a big rattlesnake on that trail just a little while earlier and he warned and admonished our sons about running way ahead of parents on the trails. A futile effort. After he made his speech our sons headed back to the trail to run down to the lower picnic area, way ahead of us and assuming the ranger had killed the only rattlesnake that would be on that trail that day.

On one trail hike a few of my family members said they think they saw a mountain lion flash by them off the trail.

On another outing with my son, Jeff, and his twin sons, (my grandsons) we saw a bobcat out in the middle of the road leading from the Interpretive Center up to Vista Point. It was in no hurry to move. It just nonchalantly moved off the road and over to a ground squirrel hole, waiting for it's afternoon snack to appear.

I watched my grandson. Ryan, catch a big bass at Boranda Lake. I watched my son, Jeff, tromp through poison oak to climb a tree to retrieve a kite. I've camped with our church youth group at the campsite available, and I've walked various trails alone, just to feel the peace and quiet of our beautiful park, only a couple miles away from a crowded Interstate highway. The only sounds were from birds and jets on their approach to SFO.

And at one time, many years ago, we'd harvest apples off the trees near the picnic area at the meadow...the last remnants of an orchard. They worked well in pies. Memories, sweet memories.

3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2020 at 3:27 pm

CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park:

>> We hear all these bizarre, appeals shooting off in every possible tangent trying to make 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 add up to to something other than 0.

That is arithmetic. Debate has a different set of rules. In debate, if you add enough zeros together quickly enough, you don't get zero, you a Gish Gallop. Web Link

33 people like this
Posted by Donya
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 4:50 pm

I can't find a parking spot in Arastradero ever since the lock down started. I am afraid the same fate awaits Foothills Park if we open it to non Palo Altans. Please let us have a peaceful and beautiful place that we can go to.

26 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 4:52 pm

So high level summary. More people not good for the flora and fauna of Foothill Park. Will cost more for the City of Palo Alto to manage that influx. Virtue signaling activists somehow see this is a "racist" policy. Palo Alto is a very diverse community, has any citizen of Palo Alto been turned away because of the color of their skin? I doubt it.
Keep the park as is, thank you and this should be decided by the citizens of Palo Alto not some small subset (City Council) of spineless individuals.

10 people like this
Posted by Helen
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2020 at 6:07 pm

I think we all know where this is going. Time to pause and consider the consequences.

8 people like this
Posted by pares
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 29, 2020 at 6:37 pm

Currently the entrance is not staffed during the week, so anyone can go in. I know many hikers who have done so over the years who don't live in Palo Alto. This seems to work out well and the park is not overly crowded. This call to open up because otherwise it's a racist or elitist policy is nonsense, since anyone can go there during the week. Also, you can reach the park by going through Arastradero Preserve which we did when the Foothills Park was closed due to the pandemic. This openness to all comers during the week can continue until when and if problems arise.

19 people like this
Posted by Grew Up Here
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2020 at 6:38 pm

The City Council will go all PC on us, lest the liberal anarchist will torch the entire park. Our other Palo Alto parks are overrun by non-residents already, why can't we keep Foothills to ourselves? Our Rinconada Pool also allows non-residents so it's more crowded than it would be if it were only for Palo Altans. We pay high taxes in Palo Alto and we have to share everything with non-residents?

Like this comment
Posted by Megan
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2020 at 8:33 pm

Let’s do this Palo Alto! Past time to open up - we use other parks in the region. If the concern is numbers than monitor and close if gets overcrowded.

3 people like this
Posted by Just a thought...
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2020 at 1:54 am

Huddart Park in Woodside which has similar types of amenities charges a $10 parking fee to encourage biking or other means of carpooling as well as to share the cost of the maintenance.

The cost of maintenance for the park should be paid for by all users of the park, not just by users who happens to live in the same city as the park. It seems odd that a user of the park (or non-user of the park) who happens to be a resident of Palo Alto would paying more for the upkeep (via taxes) than a non-resident.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2020 at 8:25 am

A couple of things that are worth saying.

The park is being used a great deal more this summer than previously. It is hard to know whether it is because of the pandemic and people are bored or because it is because of the publicity. Many non-residents of Palo Alto didn't even know it existed until recently!

Having had the park as a talking point in Palo Alto recently, it is interesting to me how many long time residents of Palo Alto have never visited it, or have not visited for many years. As a result, I wonder how many of the city council have been visitors over the years? I wonder how often former mayor LaDoris Cordell visited the park?

These may not be particularly important aspects of the debate, but it strikes me as worthwhile asking if the Palo Alto residents who are proponents of opening it to all are people who are very familiar with the park or not?

2 people like this
Posted by No Music or Dogs
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 30, 2020 at 10:13 am

I'd be up for allowing 50 non-Palo Alto people per day (for a small fee) if they banned playing music and dogs.

4 people like this
Posted by Ormay B.
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2020 at 1:06 pm

Or maybe, just start charging for everyone, more for non-residents, additional fee for cars and dogs. More on weekends. For non-residents that want free parks, there are plenty of free county and regional parks as alternatives.

I was originally for free access for all, but after hearing all sides, I really think this is the best solution and the debate has gotten tiresome.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:24 am

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

9 people like this
Posted by Blue Corn Moon
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 31, 2020 at 3:25 am

Who will speak for the animals?

How much space do they have left? They live in this "park"
It's not your right to disturb them

The people of Palo Alto literally embody the spirit of the seventies, how dare you accuse them of being racist???
What they are, is environmentalists.

2 people like this
Posted by Maggie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2020 at 8:09 pm

Maggie is a registered user.

I agree with the observations of Rich Lee.

4 people like this
Posted by Jim Opfer
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 15, 2020 at 3:39 pm

Jim Opfer is a registered user.

Concern about dogs is way overblown. I walk my dog in the park on most week days. I have never in the last year encountered any dog off leash, and my Airedale would be swift to respond to a dog off leash. Dog owners whom I meet on the trails are courteous and don a mask if appropriate distancing is not an option. I carefully scan the trails checking for mountain lion scat and have yet to observe fecal matter of any kind on the trails.

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