It's been the site of controversy due to limb-dropping eucalyptus trees and a public restroom that some residents feared would attract vagrants, but with those issues now in the past, Eleanor Pardee Park in Palo Alto is being prepared for a genteel makeover.
Crescent Park's grand dame at Center Drive and Channing Avenue is the city's second-largest neighborhood park, according to the City of Palo Alto. Its 9.6 acres include an oak forest, turf areas, two children's playgrounds, a picnic area with barbecues, a jogging and walking path, community vegetable gardens, a U.C. Cooperative Extension Master Gardener demonstration garden and a 9/11 memorial.
But age spots are showing in the browned turf area where soccer games take place, and play equipment in the tot lot is nearing the end of its safety lifespan. The picnic tables look worn and isolated; more a place where young couples cuddle on a Wednesday afternoon than where checkered table cloths show off spreads of food for a family day in the park.
The $625,000 park improvements planned by the city would include 27 additional trees (including 17 oaks and 10 new flowering trees), new playground equipment, surfaces and a fence around the toddler playground; new picnic tables, receptacles and drinking fountains and a resurfaced asphalt jogging path that surrounds the large turf area, Peter Jensen, a city landscape architect, told residents during a community meeting earlier this month.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Keri Gordon, who grew up playing in the park, was playing "boo" with her toddler nephew. She appreciated the planned improvements and said she hopes more picnic tables will be added, perhaps in the cement bowl area.
"I've never seen anyone use it in my life," she said of the bowl. The site seems useless -- a half-hearted attempt at a skateboard bowl, she added.
Planned seating on the periphery of the turf area would be a welcome addition for people who watch soccer matches, she said.
Gordon still loves the park, where she used to climb a now-departed tree near the tot lot.
She pointed to the picnic area where the tables were hidden by trees and back toward the oak forest at the park's furthest end.
"It makes me think of teenagers drinking in the area," she said.
Jensen said a decomposed-granite path would be added to bring strollers back amid the venerable oak canopy where now only leaf litter obscures the scratches of paths made as people walk toward the community garden.
Native drought-tolerant plants with colorful spires and flowers in a range of purples, oranges, yellows and other eye-popping colors would be added. More benches would be placed near the main turf area, where trees would provide a mix of shade and sun. Drainage issues that make some turf areas soggy would also be addressed, he said.
A 42-inch-high fence would be constructed around the tot playground. It would help keep animals away from children and could help keep toddlers confined to the space, he said. The aging playground equipment could be replaced by a modern design or rustic looking, tree-house-inspired design, he said.
James Romero sat on the grass as his daughter ran around the tot lot. Generations of footprints speckled the sand in the tree-dappled light.
He would like to see a water park where the children can play and more swings, he said. Residents at the community meeting said they want a drinking fountain in the tot area and an attached water fountain that is near ground level for dogs to prevent them from hopping up to the humans' fountain.
Jensen said he would consider the potential drinking fountain. The final draft plans are expected by fall or winter, with construction to take place in spring 2013. Work would take about three months to complete, he said.