Menlo Park’s City Operations And Fizzling Public Events

by on August 14, 2014

in consumer

After the FAMILY FITNESS NIGHT fizzle last night, and the almost announced mosquito spraying event earlier this week, I’m reminded of why my enthusiasm for my town (Menlo Park) has begun to waver.

I don’t know about you, but when an event takes place in downtown Menlo Park, I love to go check it out. It’s a rare thing when you can walk down the middle of the street (Santa Cruz) because it’s closed off to cars. During the block parties and a few other events (there used to be two block parties a summer, now only one) the streets are blocked off and you’re free to roam the businesses and vendor booths that populate the spots where parking spaces reside.

But last night’s Family Fitness event was a surprise that caught very few people’s attentions, and adds to the questionable attendance of events that Menlo Park has been putting on, as a city.

As far as I can tell (as a resident who lives a quarter mile away from downtown), the very first moment I became aware of the event was via a vague street sign I spotted Thursday morning at 5am saying the street would be shut down. No reason why. Just is.

I scoured the web to find out why and when I found the event, it looked more like a sales pitch for various athletic clubs. A worthy cause for sure, but the event description(s) were more sales pitch than purpose. One offer after another for four or six weeks of this, that or the other thing. And participation to vendors was free.

When I went downtown to check out the event, the entire downtown block was shut off to traffic but the number of people there seemed dismal at best.

A local website says 30 local organizations took part, but what I saw were several martial arts spots (tape on the ground outlining their spot), and a lot of folding tables tossed up with one to three folks per table manning them.  A local running club had one person manning the table and I had to crane my neck to find a sign showing who the table was for.

As far as attendance goes, the pics at this link aren’t just moments or spots. They are pretty representative of just how thin the crowd was throughout the “event.”

My other question is the timing.

This was also the last night of the Menlo Park Summer Concert Series and attendance was conceivably diluted by this event.

This Fitness event seemed barely announced, much like the mosquito spraying event earlier this week. Did you know they had a spraying this week? I accidentally came across the info on the day of the event, and I was up at midnight to hear the trucks and their sprays going up and down each street. And judging from the article in today’s DAILY POST (8-14-14), many folks were caught unaware and not too happy. (They say it’s safe, but a poison is a poison, regardless?)

But how this scheduling of the Fitness Event was handled says that someone had a great idea at the last minute and then rather than get it done right, rushed it into a poorly executed event by the city.

Like a few other events in Menlo Park, raising questions regarding the quality of the processes behind the scenes.

Menlo Park Summer Concert Series

This year, the Concert In The Park series, which is usually a very popular event, had some oddities to it.

For one, the summer series started off with the most popular band on the first night, accompanied by the only block party of the summer. (There used to be two… or was it three in years past?)  But what’s interesting is that attendance to these events seem to be dwindling.

What used to be a sea of attendees at Fremont Park for the concerts is now a collective of folks and you can actually see the grass of the park. In previous years, the throng was so thick, there was barely any room to walk across the park, never mind see the grass.

The block party itself was also not the smashing success it used to be. At least empirically. A few years ago the streets were lined, booths crammed up against each other and foot traffic was so thick you had to walk carefully as you snaked through the throng of attendees.

But the block parties no longer have that festival feel they once had.  Now, you can easily walk a straight line up the street with no real crowd in yuor way and the vendor booths seem to number one half to maybe two thirds of what they used to be.  On the bright side, the venders are so spread out that now it’s a comfortable affair if you want to visit a booth.

Other oddities that have me questioning how the city is bring run is how their parks are being handled of late.

Did you know that Menlo Park closed their parks for “renovation” for the summer? In the case of Burgess Park, it was closed for seven weeks during the prime summer months, from May 28th to July 18th. And they closed their next largest park just a few days before the July 4th weekend.

It felt like a choice that was in complete disregard of what local families might have been planning on, for that holiday weekend.

This park renovation involved keeping people off the grass, letting it die, then the week prior to opening it back up to use, watering the crap out of to make it a lush green again and ready for use. (Or painted. Some of the green seems odd.)

Did I mention the drought going on? It just befuddled me.

My other angst is a personal one, and technically, not warranted.

We had been practicing with Vader (Vader’s World) in several locations around Menlo Park for about a year, then suddenly a few months ago we had cops going out of their way to come tell us there are leash laws in town. We even had one Animal Control officer park his truck and walk several hundred yards over to us to remind us that the park is not an off-leash zone.

In one case, the woman cop who came to chat, for lack of a better description, acted like she had a ten-inch gun on her. The attitude was not necessary.

Got it gang. Message received.

Sure, we get leash laws. I watch people’s dogs run rampant peeing on people’s things and stealing things to play with all the time. I won’t even mention those who can’t find it in their heart to pick up their own dog’s crap.

But we’re not one of those folks, whom these laws are obviously aimed at. It seemed that after five encounters in a single month’s time span, someone must have been given directives to be more aggressive about the situation.  I watched cops go out of their way to come talk to us.

All this despite the obvious voice control I had over my professional dog.

But hey, that’s cool. Mountain View’s Cuesta Park now has a fantastic off-leash program going on right now.  I feel welcomed there, and I encounter nothing but great people.

I’m sure it doesn’t matter to the city how I feel. And rightfully so. These are the laws, in stark black and white existence. But there’s a grey area the world lives in where common sense kicks in. So technically, I don’t really have a foot to stand on. But when Vader and I are the Special Featured Article in publications I’m just not overly compelled to say that I hail from Menlo Park. I’m embarrassed and disappointed.

Back when the real estate market crash started, MP was an awesome place.  But as times got financially tough, I started seeing more parking enforcement tickets on cars. My neighbor was a victim of this.

I watch parked bicycles receive tickets for being in one spot too long, and have seen bicyclists pulled over by cops. (Yes, some are butt heads, but I had never seen one pulled over before. In fact, many things I’m seeing here, I’ve never seen in my lifetime and as I inquire with my many friends, they haven’t either.)

And this year, we can add dog leash patrols. (Except during the hours when everyone congregates with their loose dogs).

Are we looking for ways to pad the coffers? It’s just a question I wonder about.

All in all, my enthusiasm for Menlo Park has been slowly deteriorating. I’m no longer the proud resident I used to be. From dwindling attended public events, questionable planning, closed parks during summer months, extra effort to enforce obscure laws, well… it’s curious, that’s for sure. And issues I can’t help but ponder as I drive ten miles to go practice my routines with my pup.

My infatuation for the place has met its match. I’ve lost my enthusiasm.

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