I read with great dismay and sadness that the Baylands Nature Center is closing to the public, and the education programs may also be deleted from the city budget. For 40 years this center has served not just Palo Alto residents, but visitors from across the U.S. and the world. It is famous and is frequently written about in guides, magazines, newspapers and books, even foreign travel books. The interpretive displays inside, the lab and the on-site naturalist (position is deleted) all create an invaluable learning experience. Without the opportunity to engage the public, the open spaces can be seen as merely land that can be used and abused.
The education programs are like no other offered in the Bay Area. Where else can a student be close and intimate with what is in the mud, water and air using microscopes, a seining net and binoculars? A trained staff naturalist helps interpret the natural world and shows the value of Palo Alto's own great vision of saving the open spaces. Without understanding how natural systems all work together, the students, parents and teachers cannot fully comprehend how we, as humans, impact each system. Parents are now bringing their children on field trips that they once attended as children. The colleges and universities in the area frequently bring their classes to the Baylands Center and walkways. Will all this end for want of a few thousand?
What does this lack of interest in our open spaces and nature education say about the people of Palo Alto? I believe that the residents have simply not been given the chance to comment on this great loss. For a fact I know that teachers have communicated their dismay at the prospect of losing this priceless resource. Let us all stand up for a vision that predates most of us, yet defines present quality of life in Palo Alto.
Former school staff naturalist for Open Space
Los Trancos Circle
A change not needed
Recently I attended a neighborhood workshop sponsored by the City Parks Department. The purpose was to discuss plans for Rinconada Park.
I am incensed at this exercise. Rinconada Park has had the same configuration for more than 50 years and is probably the most beloved and heavily used park in the city. At this time of financial limitations, this is one change that is definitely not needed. Furthermore, the city has employed a team of consultants to hold workshops and examine ideas. The money spent on consultants could certainly be better used elsewhere. (How about animal services?)
I can understand the need for maintenance planning and for a tree replacement schedule, but surely this has been done for 50 years. Do we have excess staff in that department that spending time in multiple meetings is a good use of their time? Please shelve this unnecessary exercise before it adds up to still more excess.