A rural throwback to the past
The days of summer ice-cream socials held to welcome new neighbors, spring gatherings in the park and winter parades complete with marching band and donkeys, have gone by the wayside — unless you live in the community of Barron Park.
Unlike most Silicon Valley neighborhoods Barron Park hastens back to the era of a simpler time, where family and community were rooted in the hearts and minds of its residents.
"It feels like the center of the world," Gary Breitbard, a resident since 1972, said.
"The rural area atmosphere, wide variety of houses and great school district" top the list of reasons Ken Tani, former president of the Barron Park Association (BPA), chose to call this community home. But the reason he remains is "the multi-cultural caliber of residents."
Barron Park's history dates back to 1925 when it was laid out as a 62-lot Santa Clara County subdivision by Colonel Sebastian Jones, along El Camino Real, La Selva Drive and Barron Avenue. Between the 1920s and '30s agriculture was its mainstay. Fruit orchards could be seen from El Cerrito to Encina Grande Park, and on the land where Gunn High School is located, dairy cattle grazed.
Even newer residents of the neighborhood feel a sense of history. Anne Maggioncalda, a resident since 2006, feels the older generation of Barron Park "adds a lot of history, and a sense of commitment to the community."
Another relative newcomer to Barron Park is Francoise Lang. "It has a secluded, country feel," Francoise said, mentioning the main attraction for the Langs.
Equally attractive was the ease of commuting. The Langs' children, and husband Burt, bike to school and work. According to Francoise, it will be "quite some time" before the family considers moving anyplace else.
Gary Breitbard was attracted to "the rural character" of the neighborhood.
He feels the BPA has been successful in projecting a very strong voice in the city of Palo Alto regarding maintaining that character since the 1975 incorporation of Barron Park into Palo Alto.
Not only the character of the neighborhood, but "the people, and the parks" are important to him.
Bol Park on Laguna Avenue is where residents gather each spring to celebrate May Fete, an annual event based on long-ago May Day celebrations. The Fete even includes a large May pole, built by longtime resident, Paul Edwards.
Breitbard not only attends this yearly gathering, he participates in it by organizing musicians to perform, along with himself, "A lot of the community looks forward to it," he said. "It's our main event."
The natural beauty of the park brought with it possible hazards. "Barron Park was plagued by many years with flooding, but now it is 100 percent flood safe," Barron Park historian, Doug Graham, said.
Initiated in the 1980s and successfully executed in the 1990s by the BPA, the Flood Control Project provided safety from flooding to Barron Park homes and residents while maintaining the creek's natural appearances.
"It's the country look that makes it stand out from the rest of Palo Alto," said Sandee Pellizzari, who was born and raised in Barron Park. She smiles and adds, "and the donkeys."
Visitors as far away as Washington have come in search of the donkeys in Bol Park. The donkey pasture has been a staple of the park since 1965 when Josina Bol incorporated its continuation into the sale of the Bol family property to the county. A special district was created to tax Barron Park residents for five years to cover the purchase price and cost of improvement — ultimately Cornelis Bol Park.
The BPA has remained true to its promise. Perry and Niner, the resident donkeys, are there to stay, as are the majority of the residents of this community.
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CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Barron Park Childcare Co-op, Gretchen_Reynolds@yahoo.com; Barron Park Playgroup, Beth Delson, email@example.com; 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. (closed for renovations until fall 2010); Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: roughly between Chimalus and Maybell avenues, El Camino Real and Gunn High School fields
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Lynnie Melena, president, 650-493-2135, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bpaonline.org
PARKS: 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: San Antonio Shopping Center, California Avenue