A long-desired park at Cooley Landing in East Palo Alto received a boost Tuesday (Feb. 15) after the East Palo Alto City Council accepted a $244,649 grant from the San Francisco Bay Trail Project.
"Cooley Landing Park will connect the community to the wonders of the San Francisco Bay," a joint press release from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and the City of East Palo Alto stated.
East Palo Alto and the Open Space District own portions of the bayfront land known as Cooley Landing. They are working in partnership to clean up and restore the site to create a nine-acre public nature park and education center.
A 2009 two-year grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation under the "EPA Can Do" program is also contributing to the park's construction.
"This project is so important because we'll actually have a place right here in our backyards where our kids can connect to nature. Ultimately, if we want to save our planet, they need to have that connection." East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero said.
The Bay Trail Project gives grants for trail planning and construction in partnership with the State Coastal Conservancy. State Assemblyman Rich Gordon and State Sen. Joe Simitian helped secure the Bay Trail grant.
Cooley Landing Project will also be an important addition to the Bay Trail between the existing Ravenswood Open Space Preserve and the Palo Alto Baylands, open space and city officials said.
Cooley Landing was created in the mid-1800s by Dennis Martin, an Irish immigrant who purchased a Spanish land grant that extended from the bay up into the redwood canyons above Woodside and Portola Valley. It was then called Martin's Landing. It was used to ship lumber, redwood shingles, wheat and wool north to San Francisco and other cities, originally in flat-bottomed sailing barges, according to reports.
Martin also built a small town at the base of the foothills, including a church and store, but he eventually lost title to the land because an overlapping land grant was based on geographic features, which trumped grants based on compass readings in legal disputes.
The late Carl Schoof operated a boatworks on Cooley Landing. Schoof and his wife, a physical-education teacher at Stanford University, owned a six-acre strip down the middle of the bulb of land and extending out to a channel for access to the main channel down at the end of the shallow bay. They lived aboard the dredge while Schoof did fine refinishing and repair work on classic wooden boats in a still-standing building on the north side of the landing.
The flanks of Cooley Landing were owned by Utah Mining Company, which once harvested oyster shells to use in making cement before the oyster colonies died from sewage discharge from cities around the South Bay. The firm since the 1800s claimed title to hundreds of acres of tide-flooded bay mud extending nearly to the central channel.
The title was purchased by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District in the early 1980s, along with a 145-acre Leslie Salt Co. salt pond just north of the narrow extension of Bay Road reaching out to the bulb at the end.
The Schoofs later sold their strip of land to Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), a private nonprofit land trust, in 1999 for $1.25 million. The money was provided by the Packard Foundation in the interest of preserving Cooley Landing as a park.
POST later transferred title to the land to the City of East Palo Alto, in 2006, at no cost to the city, with a deed restriction put in place that POST staff continues to monitor. The deed restriction stipulates that the property cannot be used for private commercial purposes, according to Nina Nowak, POST director of communications.
"Cooley Landing will be an exciting new shoreline destination with direct access from far-reaching sections of the Bay Trail," Bay Trail Project Manager Laura Thompson said.
The Bay Trail, which is administered by the Association of Bay Area Governments, will encircle San Francisco and San Pablo Bays with a continuous 500-mile network of bicycling and hiking trails. More than 310 miles of bay trails are currently in use by the public.