Menlo Park’s Mishandled City Park Management

by on July 11, 2014

in bruce's thoughts

I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of being able to visit my city parks, here in Menlo Park, CA. In fact I’d love to be able to visit a number of my city’s parks. It’s a beautiful town and on a decent day, there’s no place better to be at in the summer than in the park enjoying time with your Frisbee practice, the family or even your family pet.

But here in my town, there’s been an interesting quirk taking place that I have never seen before and that’s how Menlo Park has closed their city parks to use, during the summer months of all time. Yes, the summer.

On May 28th, they put up a huge orange fence around the largest section of one of their larger parks, Burgess Park, here in Menlo Park, CA. They then put some scary signs up, warning you that the field has been closed and you will be fined $500 for violating the grass while it is “closed for renovation.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a park get closed by a city in any township or town or city I’ve ever lived in. Ever. Well, that is, until I moved here. I’ve asked a few dozen folks about how they feel about it. Some say it’s because the grass they use is a fragile creature. Others just throw their arms up in exasperation. I merely hang my head in disappointment, wondering what exactly are my tax dollars paying for if I can’t use a resource that’s implied to be used by the public.

Forced to practice disc dog skills in a neighboring town

For me, it impacts my day-to-day plans to practice my disc throwing skills. I’m part of a disc dog freestyle team, it’s always good to practice. And for quite some time, I was practicing every day at lunch at Burgess Park.

When they closed the park, I figured I would use the teeny, tiny rectangle of grass on the south end of the park. But I was ousted by the kids summer camp. It was an interesting scenario. I would watch when they set up, then I would show up earlier to use the grass, then get out of their way. But then they started setting up even earlier, so I bowed out of that hope.

Then I started using the baseball field at the west end of this rectangular piece of Burgess park. But then the summer camps started using that field as well during my lunch break hours. Sigh.

So I’ve been waiting patiently since 5-28-14 for the renovation to end. Yes, that’s how long the park here has been closed to public use. (To be accurate, the grassy parts of the park.) Today, at the time of this writing, it’s July 11th, 2014.

I was pretty sure that by the July 4th weekend, they would “open” the public park and all, considering that the holiday weekend was coming up. They did move the orange fencing aside for a party and parade the city hosted, but then, they put it all back, closing it all off once again.

To add insult to injury, I was considering using a different park that I could drive to for my disc practice, Jack W. Lyle Park/Soccer Field.

But to my utter amazement, they closed that park down too, and just before the big family outing days of the July 4th weekend, on 6-28-14. Yes, just before a huge family holiday. I mean what gives? Did they hire the same people who run the “Spare the Air” program, who put up fireplace bans on the eves of family holidays?

This new development now meant two of the larger city parks were closed.

And to this day, they’re not only still closed, but Burgess is starting to look really bad, as if they haven’t been watering the closed off sections at all. How’s that called renovation?

Now I don’t know about you, but I had to wonder why close any park during the summer, when folks are more likely to go enjoy the park? Why not do this “renovation” before, during or near the end of the winter months? As it is, they city “slams” all the parks closed every time it rains, so why not seal off the grass for a prolonged period of time during those periods?

I’m not sure what’s up, but between this and being on the receiving end of what feels like an aggressive dog leash patrolling effort, I don’t feel too welcome in my own town. Funny huh?

I used to practice my professional dog performance routines around town, to the cheers and accolades of many neighbors. They loved watching Vader leap for discs and vault off my back. But of late, we’ve been the target of several warnings at different locations around Menlo Park, that ranged from (I assume) some neighbors calling the cops, to cops and animal control reps stopping and walking all the way across a park to tell us about the leash laws*.

I’d love to be able to say I practice in the lovely town of Menlo Park, but between the aggressive pursuit of leash law enforcement and parks being closed, well, right now Mountain View has my vote, over in Cuesta Park, where for the next year, they’re testing a 24/7 off-leash program there.

*The cops and animal control officers are NOT in the wrong in enforcing the leash laws. But I would think common sense would come into play when you see a dog practicing professional moves with discs and back vaults, under professional command control, unlike some others whose dogs charge across parks, never respond to recall commands and chews up everyone else’s stuff while they are running loose.

I think towns should have a specific category of dog waiver that allows certain folks to be able to enjoy what I do. An arm band or something that says from a distance, unlike my neighbors dogs who run nutso loose, my dog is under my control! Just sayin’.

But that’s just me. I’m quirky that way.

Back on track:

Sorry Menlo Park, but I don’t get the reasoning behind making your citizens suffer the inability to use your parks. Why do you close the parks to use during the peak months of the year when the good citizens of this town would be more prone to using it? In fact, if you look carefully, the zones outside the roped off sections are healthier looking than ever.

In the meantime, we have to look elsewhere for our practice!

Use your eyes and make an observation MP city manager. Your park renovation plans seem ass backwards and hostile to your very own citizens. Wake up and smell the dead grass!!!

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