Barron Park, a relatively quiet and semi-rural neighborhood tucked behind El Camino Real in south Palo Alto, is home to a diverse community. Ranging from large two-story homes and small cottages to the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Barron Park's eclectic variety of architecture gives the neighborhood its charm and tight-knit feel.
The bike path through Cornelis Bol Park connects the pastoral enclave to the rest of the community. Students use the path to get to Gunn High School, commuters use it to get to Stanford Research Park and others simply use it as a place to stroll with their dogs or children. With two creeks, Barron and Matadero, and two parks, Bol and Juana Briones, residents say they feel compelled to spend their time outside and with neighbors. Residents attribute the rural feel to the sidewalk-less streets, native plants and somewhat secluded community.
"The geography of the neighborhood is what sets it apart and gives it its personality and uniqueness," said Winter Dellenbach, adding that many residents have lived there since before it joined the City of Palo Alto in 1975 when it was officially annexed.
Despite the neighborhood's somewhat isolated location, the Barron Park Association, now in its 60th year, is considered among the most active neighborhood associations in the city, said Dellenbach, who has lived in Barron Park since 1993. The association has a tradition of hosting a variety of culturally diverse events, including the annual May Fete (which it kicked off in 1978), Holi and the Lunar New Year.
"Over the last five years, we have developed this incredible spectrum (of residents) from the recent people who are buying, tearing down and building houses to people like my neighbors on either side who have lived here for over 40 years," said neighborhood association president Richard Elder, adding that there is a strong feeling in support of preserving the diversity within the community.
Besides hosting cultural events, the association also acts as a liaison between the neighborhood and the city. When the city was reviewing development plans for the neighborhood's Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, for example, the association made certain neighborhood voices were heard. The most controversial issues are rooted in traffic, Elder said.
Even when confronted with divisive issues, Dellenbach said the neighborhood remains tight knit. "People who were in strong opposition on one issue came together on the next issue," he said. "I am proud to be a neighbor of theirs in Barron Park."
Perhaps two of the best-known residents who have contributed much to the "uniqueness" and charm of the neighborhood are Perry and Jenny, the city's "mascot" donkeys. Generations of donkeys have lived in the neighborhood since the 1930s when Josina and Cornelis Bol cared for a small herd on their property. In later years, neighbors helped fund the creation of Bol Park at the site where today's beloved Barron Park donkeys live.
"The donkeys are a focal point of our community as well as (a focal point of) much of Palo Alto," said Jenny Kiratli, a volunteer donkey handler.
Barron Park's easy access to award-winning schools also are a focal point that attract young families to the area.
"Schools play a big role in why people move to Barron Park," said Markus Fromherz, a 12-year resident and former association president. The neighborhood is home to four public schools, Barron Park Elementary, Juana Briones Elementary, Terman Middle School and Gunn High School.
Even with large homes being built as new families move in, the neighborhood's friendliness and small-town nature remains preserved.
"There are a lot of deep reasons to know your neighbors, and we try to maintain that," Elder said.--Sophie Pollock
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
LOCATION: roughly between Chimalus Drive and Maybell Avenue, El Camino Real and Gunn High School fields
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