Bol Park Proposed Site Concept Plan
Comments and Questions, with responses

by Douglas Moran (Barron Park resident)

The Draft Park and Facilities New Amenities Concept Plans Review Document has generated substantial comment on the Barron Park Association discussion groups about the proposals for Bol Park. It would be useful to have clarifications about what is being proposed. Please recognize that various of the observations are implicit questions.

Please note the Concept Plans are a way to engage the community about what new features they would like to see added to their park and the overall park system. New amenities shown on the Site Concept Plans were derived from community input and analysis of the full parks and recreation system. Currently the plans are on line for the community to review and provide input. Input received will guide what new amenities are included in the final Master Plan.
— Peter Jensen, Public Works Landscape Architect, City of Palo Alto

Existing Conditions

The introduction states Each Concept Plan shows only those amenities that are proposed as new or as a major enhancement/improvement to an existing amenity in the overall layout of each location.

  1. The creekside path, labeled A is identified as Path is not ADA accessible suggesting that it might be eliminated. Add to this that the proposed Bike Pump Track would eliminate the crucial connector between that path and the bike/pedestrian path. This path is important to many pedestrians, especially those walking for exercise, to avoid near-collisions with bicyclists—which were characterized as being more often than infrequent—on the bike/pedestrian path.
    None of the items shown on the existing conditions plans are proposed to be eliminated, unless specifically called out on the accompanying Site Concept Plan as a location of a proposed new amenity. The pathway will remain, and will be evaluated for ADA compliance in the future when the project is scheduled for maintenance. The path connection will remain as well.
  2. The label Youth Soccer Field is misleading. Although a section of the park is used by groups of families for very informal games of soccer, it is no means a soccer field in either size or in being level. And these soccer games are only one of many uses of this section of the park, and a lesser uses at that. The primary use seems to be as a play area for children at events at the adjacent picnic tables, something that is proposed to be expanded. These events range from play-dates of 2-4 families to medium-sized birthday parties (up to 15 families). A concern is that this designation would lead to this section of the park becoming officially viewed as such.
    Note: The section most commonly used for these informal soccer games is typically closer to the front of the park than the area labeled.
    The turf area will remain as is and is not proposed to be changed in any way. The labeling of the area signifies that it has the potential to be used for youth soccer.
  3. The label Leaning fence and agriculture remnants fails to capture that these were intentional design elements of the park, similar to sculptures elsewhere. The location of the proposed Bike Pump Track suggests that these are to be eliminated.
    The bike pump track was proposed from site analysis, which observed many children using the open dirt area to ride their bikes. The idea behind the pump track would be to enhance this area for children to ride their bikes in a better developed and safer environment. The use of this area would remain as it is today. The specific design of any of the potential new amenities that do make it into the parks master plan will go through a full community design process when the park is up for improvements, which will include community outreach and input.
    Response to Response: The area being used appears to have been misreported or misrecorded. The area routinely being used by bicyclists, including jumps, is more than 1000 feet further to the south: Map showing that location (red) and where the Concept Plan has it (yellow).
  4. Although heritage oaks along the creek are mentioned, there is no mention of the mature redwoods, many of which are memorials.
    All existing trees in the park are to remain. No trees in any of the parks are proposed to be removed by the concept plans.

Proposed Site Concept Plan

  1. Adult Fitness (AF): What is the reason for the placement of this amenity at the location shown? The circle on the map overlaps the existing sand pit that is very popular with small children, but we presume that this is just inaccurate placement. However, this section of the park is heavily used by families for sitting on the grass while (some of) their children go back and forth between the play structures. I would seem inadvisable to locate adult fitness items where there is heavy traffic by tots.
    Providing locations for adult and elderly fitness areas in the parks was one of the main requests by the community to enhance the park system. The idea would be to incorporate work out equipment or provide a space for physical activities in the park. This would allow a larger user group to enjoy the playground as well as provide the opportunity for parents to have access to the equipment or space to work out while watching their children. If adult fitness is determined to be a new amenity added to the park the design of how it’s incorporated into the playground area will be determined when the playground is up for renovation. The sand pit area will remain a part of the playground.
  2. Bike Pump Track
    1. This seems to be a very bad location for such a facility: It would seem to greatly increase the conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians. The Bike/Pedestrian path sees lots of use by families with small children, including strollers, going up to see the Barron Park donkeys. It also has many people walking dogs. Some of the pedestrians are senior, VA patients and others with reduced hearing, vision and ability to quickly move out of the way of those bicyclists who believe that pedestrians should be aware of and yield to them. Bad behavior by commuter bicyclists is infrequent enough and manageable. However, packs of recreational bicyclists have caused problems—because they were paying attention to each other and ignoring the presence of pedestrians. Is it reasonable to expect Pump Track users to immediately convert from being aggressive and adventurous to being careful and respectful of pedestrians?
      The inclusion of a bike pump track was added to the site concept plan for Bol Park as a direct observation made multiple times by the project team and staff of children riding their bikes at this location. The proposed pump track was to provide an enhanced and safer location for kids to ride their bikes in the dirt in a defined space away from the existing bike path to limit conflict. As with all the potential new amenities shown on the plan a specific design would be done with community input at the time when the project was scheduled.
    2. The undeveloped area of the park appears to be too small for a Pump Track. Recognize that part of this area is an access path for Water District maintenance trucks to reach the creek bed.
      Please see the response above.
    3. The oval on the map suggests that multiple mature trees will be removed. The very nature of a Pump Track is hills and dips, and these are incompatible with the root systems of such trees.
      No trees are proposed to be removed for any potential new amenity at any park or facility.
    4. The oval on the map indicates that the Pump Track with take over a significant portion of the upper segment of the park. This segment is used as a gathering place for people seeking a quiet/calm area—this includes groups of teenagers, young adults and families with infants. The noise inherent in a Pump Track means that the remaining portion of this segment of the park will no longer be suitable for these uses.
      Please refer to prior responses.
  3. Native Habitat Area along the bike path: This is probably a much more difficult problem than most imagine. At the end of the construction of the creek bypass tunnel, both the Water District and the neighborhood attempted to establish a robust native habitat in this area and it largely failed. There have been subsequent attempts by neighborhood volunteers to establish small experimental plots in this area and they have largely failed. Even native plant species regarded as pioneers have failed to take hold. The success of the native plant plot near Matadero Avenue involved substantially more cost and effort than most people realize.
    The majority of native habitat areas proposed on the Site Concept Plans are to reduced unused passive turf areas that require continuous irrigation and water. As part of native conversion a long term guide for establishing and maintaining the native area to ensure its successes would be implemented, this is currently underway now along the Bol Park pathway with over 100 native plants installed recently adjacent to the VA hospital.
  4. Expanded Picnic area: How much of an expansion is being considered? The parking for Bol Park is very limited and already heavily used on weekends. Parents with small children need to park close in, and if too many of the available spaces are used by picnickers, this will displace current usage and users.