In many ways, the character of Palo Alto's Esther Clark neighborhood is exemplified by Esther Clark Park, located directly off of Arastradero Road. A 21-acre nature preserve, it remains a highlight for those who enjoy a place of tranquility and natural beauty.
The best way for a visitor to enter the park is from Old Adobe Road where drivers are enveloped in a tunnel of trees arching over the inclined road. Driving further on, the road meanders up and down, and up again even more steeply. Esther Clark Park neighborhood feels like a secret, hidden behind winding hills and impressive Spanish-style villas. After a short drive to the end of the road is the park, settled against the last few houses in the neighborhood. A sign greets the visitor: "Palo Alto Open Space."
Dr. Esther Clark was one of the key founders of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, and she also established her own nonprofit with the goal of helping children with disabilities. Richard Horn, one of the many veteran residents of Old Adobe Road and a retired pediatrician himself, remembers the highly respected Palo Alto figure fondly for what she brought to his beloved neighborhood.
"Esther Clark owned all of this property, and she developed Old Adobe Road ... (the land) was donated with the understanding that it would be open space ... " he said, adding that, "The neighborhood is nicely isolated, but also acts like a classic American neighborhood with lots of space."
Joining Dr. Horn as a longtime resident of the Esther Clark neighborhood, Katy Clancey and her daughter Jeannie talked about their love for their neighborhood.
"You're living in a rural setting, but you're five minutes away from towns like Los Altos," Katy Clancey said.
Her daughter Jeannie chimed in as well: "It is absolutely the perfect place to live because of its calmness ... the park is a treasure to this neighborhood."
Interestingly, both Clancey and Horn mentioned the development that has taken place and is still ongoing on Old Adobe Road and Old Trace Lane. The original homes were more rustic and spaced out from one another.
"There used to be a lot of smaller houses, but now there is more development of bigger ones," Horn said.
"It's hard for those of us who love this old rural setting ... but it is exciting to see new energy in the neighborhood," said Katy Clancey, adding that there had been barbecues at the end of the street in which all of the residents, both longtime and new, came together and enjoyed their little paradise.
The park itself still looks exactly as Esther Clark had intended: open space reaches into the horizon, providing plenty of opportunity for people to enjoy nature as well as partake in activities.
"People do a lot of walking, riding horses and jogging," Horn said.
It's understandable that these residents are so fond of their neighborhood, as it feels tucked away into a part of Palo Alto that feels rural, even though, just down the hill, there are large corporate office buildings -- an immediate reminder of how special the neighborhood's peaceful atmosphere is.
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road (after summer 2012January 2013)
LOCATION: from Old Adobe Road to Manuela Avenue, off Arastradero Road, including Old Trace Road
PARK: Esther Clark Park, Old Trace Road
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Nixon Elementary School, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: El Camino Real, Downtown Los Altos