Strolling down the sidewalk-less streets lined with trees and walking up to the pasture near Cornelis Bol Park, one can meet Barron Park's "mascots" — the donkeys, Perry and Niner. Watching them graze serenely, you can tune out the traffic on El Camino Real — a stone's throw away — and feel like you have stepped back in time.
Barron Park's history dates back to the 1850s when it was initially occupied as Mayfield Farm and later sold to Edward Barron, a mining magnate, after whom it was named. In 1925, a 62-lot Santa Clara County subdivision was laid out by Colonel Sebastian Jones and later annexed to Palo Alto in 1975.
Today, the homes in Barron Park — from the million-dollar ones to those in the Buena Vista mobile-home park — are as diverse as the people who live here. Recent years have seen an influx of people from different cultures and even different countries, perhaps lured in by the Silicon Valley boom and the proximity to Stanford Research Park.
"I really love this quirky mix of people in the community," said Kumiko Toft, a mother of two who has lived there since 2008.
Like the people, traditions in Barron Park also range from the old, such as the annual May Fete started in 1978 with its maypoles and music, to the new, such as the Lunar New Year Celebration, featuring a Lion Dance acrobatic troupe, in February.
Rakhi Singh, a new resident, admits that it was Barron Park's ambiance of a "nestled community" that attracted her when she moved in 2012. "And the donkeys; my kids love the donkeys," she added.
Despite its isolated appearance, Barron Park's residents are far from detached when it comes to engaging themselves in city-wide efforts or addressing local environmental issues. Barron Park prides itself on being one of the first neighborhoods to take part in the city's emergency preparedness initiative, "Quakeville," and launching one of the first neighborhood Green Teams.
Singh was also impressed by the support and warm welcome her family received from the neighborhood association. Formed during the long-standing debate of annexation with Palo Alto, the Barron Park Association (BPA), apart from organizing community events, has been at the forefront of addressing issues such as the flooding of Barron Creek in the 1990s and a subsurface groundwater contamination of Matadero Creek in 1982.
Judith Wasow, a resident since 1977, feels that the layout of the neighborhood itself contributes to its "cohesive, embracing" atmosphere, with almost all the streets leading into the area around Bol Park. Her husband, Tom Wasow, a professor at Stanford University, still commutes by bicycle, as do many of the other residents, encouraged by the well-laid-out bike path that runs all the way to the foothills.
In the 35 years that she has lived here, schools have changed, many homes have been renovated, and the city has undergone tremendous development. Yet, the semi-rural "charm" of the neighborhood remains to this day.
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CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Barron Park Children's Center, 800 Barron Ave.; Barron Park Preschool, 3650 La Donna Ave.; Barron Park Kids' Club, 800 Barron Ave.; Juana Briones Kids' Club, 4100 Orme St.
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: College Terrace branch, 2300 Wellesley St.; Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road (to be re-opened in fall 2013)
LOCATION: roughly between Chimalus Drive and Maybell Avenue, El Camino Real and Gunn High School fields
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Lynnie Melena, president, 650-493-2135, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bpapaloalto.org
PARKS: Cornelis Bol Park, Laguna Avenue between Barron and Matadero avenues; Juana Briones Park, 609 Maybell Ave.
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Barron Park and Juana Briones elementary schools, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: Alma Plaza, San Antonio Shopping Center, California Avenue