City to add amenities to El Camino Park

Council, recreation officials hope massive new reservoir would lead to more field spaces, park amenities

When Palo Alto officials set out to build a massive underground reservoir at El Camino Park, their goal was to give residents an emergency water supply, not to provide new play spaces and park amenities.

But city recreation officials are now trying to use the voter-approved project as an opportunity to reinvigorate the park by adding lacrosse striping, a scoreboard, a grassy nook for picnics and a dog-exercise area.

While funding remains a major obstacle, the City Council agreed with the Parks and Recreation Commission on Monday night that park improvements at El Camino should be a high priority.

Discussion of El Camino Park improvements dominated Monday night's joint session between the council and the commission, which had already spent several meetings compiling a list of potential park improvements. On Oct. 20, the commission submitted a memo calling the park an "underused asset" and urging the council to use the reservoir project to improve the park.

"The Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission understands that improving El Camino Park is just one of many infrastructure projects facing the City," the memo stated. "Nonetheless, the planned reservoir project construction at El Camino Park creates an unusual opportunity to optimize resources and minimize disruption by making park improvements in conjunction with reservoir upgrades."

The council agreed that the opportunity for park improvements should not be squandered, though members acknowledged that finding the funds to make these improvements could prove tricky. The reservoir is funded by a voter-approved bond and city officials are prohibited from using the bond funds for projects not relating to water improvements.

City officials estimate that the construction of the reservoir will commence in the middle next year and will take about two years to complete. The reservoir would have the capacity to store 2.5 million gallons of water.

The council agreed Monday that some of the commission's proposed improvements could be implemented at little cost. The Utilities Department, which is implementing the project, has already agreed to include several of these improvements including lacrosse striping, a pedestrian access point at the south end of the park, and a redesigned softball field in the project's design.

Other improvements, such as a new scoreboard and new field lights, could also ultimately be installed in the near future, council members indicated. Councilman Greg Scharff, whose children played Little League baseball at El Camino Park, said he supports the types of improvements the commission is recommending.

"There's definitely a shortage of field space to do this kind of stuff," Scharff said, referring to youth sports. "It can't be that expensive to install a scoreboard."

Councilman Larry Klein said the city should start thinking of ways to fund the proposed improvements. He proposed sending the list of proposed park improvements to the city's new Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Task Force. The task force, which is charged at evaluating the city's infrastructure backlog and considering a possible bond measure to fund infrastructure improvements, is scheduled to hold its first meeting in December.

Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Daria Walsh said the commission is worried that the task force will take more than a year to complete its task, by which time it could be too late to implement the park improvements

"If by that time we don't have the money, the opportunity is lost," Walsh said.

The council asked for more information about the estimated costs of the commission's park projects. Once these estimates are in, the council will decide wither to fund the park projects through a bond or through the city's capital-improvement program.

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Like this comment
Posted by Where?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 11:34 am

Maybe I missed it, but shouldn't the story mention where this park is? (I've lived in PA for years and have no idea where "El Camino Park" is.)

Like this comment
Posted by sean
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm

It is at El Camino and Alma. Just accross from Stanford Shopping Center.

Like this comment
Posted by rhody
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Thanks Sean. I didn't know where it was either, and I've lived here 33 years. I really like this newspaper and depend on it, but wish they would include more basic information in many of their articles. It seems as if the writer has no curiosity of his/her own and just turns over the police/council information.

Like this comment
Posted by moreball
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Would it be too much to ask to get at least one dedicated city owned Little League field?
I don't include Middlefield (privately owned) and Hoover park (no perm. fence).

Like this comment
Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I thought the HSR Authority had their eye on El Camino Park for a parking lot for the HSR Station that they may want to build in Palo Alto!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Lacrosse striping? How is that considered an improvement? You can stripe it however you want. They should stripe it for lacrosse. But, it's not the city that will be doing the striping, it'll be the lacrosse league(s) that use the field. Is the city trying to put that off as an improvement?

How about any excess money is put into the Storm Drain fund that ran out of money 8 months after they started storm drain improvements and left half of the projects incomplete? That one just seemed to get dropped, never to be discussed again.

More than likely, they'll dig the hole for the reservoir, run out of money and it'll sit there for ten years until they can fund completion. Sometime after they find money for a police station, or whatever else is the hot project of the month.

Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Nov 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Councilmember Klein now says a new scoreboard and field lights should be studied by the city's new infrastructure "Blue Ribbon" committee. Really! Didn't know field lights and scoreboards are vital to our infrastructure. Sounds like Larry is stretching the committee's purpose. Goes back when city council came up with an arbitrary outlandish amount of money the city said they needed for infrastructure to pass a bond raising taxes and said they would have to cut all city department funding to pay for infrastructure improvements. Maybe the media could have served us better by asking what qualifies as a infrastructure improvement or asking Klein how playground equipment fits into necessary infrastructure.

Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2010 at 11:08 am

I hope that the improvements don't also mean that those lovely trees on the perimeter of the park will be taken down . . .

Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm

The problem with that particular park is that there is no place for parking. I visited it once 40+ years ago, to take a walk with my dad.

It is pretty, and I agree with jardins - I hope they do not need to remove the mature trees inside the park.

Not sure how they will be able to accomplish this when an underground water storage facility is going to built there.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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