Palo Alto residents gather to plan future of Bol Park

New Barron Park committee to weigh in on city draft concept plans for new features

With its meandering paths, great expanse of green, vintage agricultural tools and venerable donkeys, Bol Park has remained a refuge from Palo Alto's fast-paced and car-choked environment for more than 40 years. But now, as the City of Palo Alto is updating its 25-year Parks and Recreation Master Plan, how Bol Park's character might change -- or be preserved -- has become the subject of discussion in the Barron Park neighborhood.

The city is planning to upgrade its 35 parks, community centers and playing fields to better meet people's interests and needs. The public can comment on the city's draft concept plans for parks and new facilities amenities, which will be part of the master plan, through July, said Peter Jensen, city landscape architect. The city will conduct formal public meetings and reviews when a new amenity or feature is to be added to a park, he added.

Barron Park residents, for whom Bol Park means so much, are taking the process one step further. The neighborhood group, Barron Park Association, has formed a committee to work with the city to make sure that upgrades address community concerns. Chaired by longtime resident Richard Placone, who was at the forefront of the park's creation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the committee of seven volunteers had its first organizational meeting Wednesday. Other residents are invited to join, Placone said.

The Bol Park concept plan, which only shows new and not existing amenities, includes new expanses of native plants along Matadero Creek and the Bol Park bike path up to the creek bridge; three creekside lookouts; an expanded picnic area; more natural play structures in the playground; an adjacent adult fitness area and a restroom on the triangular Laguna Avenue end of the park.

A bike "pump track," a series of humps and meandering tracks for dirt bikes, would replace several mounds of dirt currently used by kids as a de facto track.

Bol Park was once land belonging to Cornelis and Josephine Bol, who also maintained a donkey pasture. Old farm equipment and two donkeys, Perry and Miner, are still a part of the landscape. Residents have cared for the animals and also installed native plants to improve wildlife habitat.

Many residents have expressed to the city their concern that the park should remain a rural gem and not be overdeveloped, Jensen said. The city has received many negative comments about the pump track. Jensen said that some elements of the plan, such as the pump track, could be reduced in size or even eliminated entirely.

Doug Moran, a Barron Park resident who has been involved with both the donkey handling and native plantings, has a number of questions about the proposed changes.

Moran expressed concern that the creekside path, which is labeled as not ADA accessible, might face elimination. The creek path "is important to many pedestrians, especially those walking for exercise, to avoid near-collisions with bicyclists," he said.

But most of his concerns relate to the bike pump track, which could greatly increase conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians. Many pedestrians are families with small children and strollers, seniors and persons from the Veterans Administration grounds with disabilities, he said. Some have reduced hearing and vision and are unable to quickly move out of the way of bicyclists.

The size of the proposed expanded picnic area also is not clear, he said.

"The parking for Bol Park is very limited and already heavily used on weekends. Parents with small children need to park close in," he said. If the larger picnic area attracts more people, then current park

users could be affected.

Placone said the Barron Park Association committee wants to address concerns such as Moran's and others' and help craft a park design that will meet people's needs -- and also preserve the features of Bol Park that people love.

The parks concept plans can be viewed or commented upon by going to Anyone interested in joining the committee can contact Dick Placone at


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64 people like this
Posted by Criminy
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2016 at 8:17 am

For heavens' sake, leave well enough alone! Don't change a thing!

3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2016 at 4:38 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The article cited a set of comments and questions I submitted. The complete set, along with the responses from City Staff, can be found at Web Link

On the Bicycle Pump Track, the area currently being used was apparently misreported or misrecorded: It is over 1000 feet to the south, and much larger: map (Web Link).

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2016 at 4:41 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

If the first "Web Link" above doesn't work (intermittent problems), try the equivalent Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by jane_u
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2016 at 2:08 pm

@Criminy - if you don't plant for the future it still happens anyway. We have a chance to influence the future of Bol Park which we all love. There is no option to keep things the same, because change is constant and inevitable. So let's all have a conversation about that future! I would love a bigger picnic area and more options to ride my bike in Bol Park! Let's not say "no" to things.

32 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 10, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Wow is a registered user.

"There is no option to keep things the same."

I'm confused about this - why are changes required? I agree the world does change, but unless I misunderstand, the park need not.

35 people like this
Posted by Fewiley
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2016 at 7:09 pm

Could you please leave Bol park alone? This park is used by many of our neighbors and ourselves for recreation. The play area is perfect for families with young children. Please (!) Don't destroy this park for some transient TV induced recreational dirt bike fad..... A public restroom facility is also unsightly and not needed.... An enlarged picnic area also seems very questionable. Doesn't the city have any other use for its excess funds?

34 people like this
Posted by Katie
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 10, 2016 at 9:42 pm

If it ain't broke don't fix it. Leave it as is.

22 people like this
Posted by Biking Kids
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 11, 2016 at 2:17 am

Kids have been racing down that big dirt hill near the bike path intersection behind the donkeys since the beginning of time (or at least the early 80s). I remember the sweaty Bell helmet, the shaking handlebars and the speed! Parking shouldn't be an issue with more bicyclists (and why are we driving to a local park, anyway? But I can see not wanting people to park in front of your house). I'm excited for the littlest kids to own the track with their scoot bikes during school hours when the big kids are away! Let's do all we can for our Palo Alto big kids. They must have a place to play. I hear complaints about "too many big kids" on playgrounds, but I want them at our parks! Our little kids will grow into big kids, and I'd love for them to have more outdoor places appropriate for them.

6 people like this
Posted by Winter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 11, 2016 at 10:51 am

To underline an earlier corrective remark that may help be helpful - the bike play area that is being talked about by the city is NOT in Bol Park or real close. It is behind Gunn. The city made a mistake as to its location.

17 people like this
Posted by mon
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 11, 2016 at 10:55 am

please don't screw this place up, it seems some people have jobs that's only purpose is to change things regardless of if its a needed change or not!
AND don't add any nasty plastic grass!

Like this comment
Posted by jane_uyvova
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 11, 2016 at 11:08 am

What will happen to the park if no maintenance or updates are done for 5, 10, 15 years? Do you think it will just "stay the same"? Or do you think it will slowly deteriorate? If you don't plan for the future, it will still come, we just won't be a part of it as a community.

17 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 11, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Bol Park is a beautiful park that is used by hundreds of Barron Park residents regularly. It is not very developed just as Barron Park isn't. It is a great place for walking and relaxing. It needs minimal improvement. It is fine as it is.

When we walk in Bol Park with friends from other parts of Palo Alto they comment on how beautiful this place is and how different it is from the other parks. It is not noisy and crowded.

If there is need for a dirt track it should get built in Mitchell Park or Rinconoda Park, centrally located and accessible to all Palo Altans.

Please, please leave our beautiful park alone. Please use the money to improve the street pavements.

4 people like this
Posted by SuperD
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 11, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Let's develop it into low income housing, seeing how the City & County are on an altruistic kick these days, especially if they can use tax payers' money. Take from the wealthy (or middle class in some cases) and give to the poor. Heck, the council members might even get their names on a bronze plaque for it! And since the City already owns it, they don't have to threaten eminent domain!!

9 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm

We can improve and maintain the parks, but we don't need to put in a structured "pump track." Let the kids keep playing in that undeveloped field the way it is subject to whatever creative modifications they choose to make without all the adult intervention. Most of the other proposals are hypocritical and would draw unwanted crowds to what should be a local park.

11 people like this
Posted by margaret
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2016 at 5:47 pm

The commenters seem to recognize, as do people in my neighborhood that our city has grown the Urban disease.... they can't seem to let even a Park be nature, the way the Land was meant to be.

Please please.... the park is best when it's closest to the original conditions, much like the Cuesta Annex in Mountain View, or the Live Oak Lands around Stanford. Stop overbuilding everything, we want our land back, Parks in the mold and traditions of the original Land are the most beautiful, harmonious, and peaceful after a stressful day in our crazed society.

Left alone and/or restored to nature they are also the most universally flexible and usable for the most people.

Save money, save trouble, do as little as possible, especially given your current proclivities for ugly monstrous buildings that are going up everywhere, let the Parks be the last refuge of sanity

9 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 13, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Please let Idyllic Bol Park remain exactly as it is. It is Perfect in all its lovely wildness.

6 people like this
Posted by Barron Park guy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2016 at 3:51 pm

How about a bit of dog leash law enforcement. You can routinely find many dogs running around off leash, including quite near the donkeys. In fact, on most mornings you can witness a guy drive up and park his pick-up (with camper shell), take his dog off leash from there right past the donkeys towards Gunn High School. Asking him to comply with the leash laws will result in absolutely no action by him.

2 people like this
Posted by jane_u
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 13, 2016 at 8:31 pm

@Barron Park guy
Do the donkey mind the dogs? How about enforcing order around the picnic benches too? Alternatively, how about trying out a "live and let live" approach? I think that would be better for all of us in the Palo Alto community. Or is there nothing we can say "yes" to?

3 people like this
Posted by Barron Park guy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2016 at 9:01 pm

To Jane U
I am worried about the safety of the donkeys, not whether they "mind them." Given that we have had 2 donkey attacks by off leash dogs in recent years there should be a no tolerance policy. I have been repeatedly chased and attacked (nearly knocked to the ground recently in one local park) by off leash dogs and the bottom line is that there should be an absolutely no tolerance policy for off leash dogs anywhere other than designated areas. The city is thinking of expanding designated dog park areas for dog owners. Fine, then they will have even less excuses for exposing others (and donkeys) to risks of bites and attacks. The "live and let live" approach is to follow the law passed by our city (my wife was bit by a "good" off leash dog a block away from our house with sufficient severity to warrant IV antibiotics).

4 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:11 am

Wow is a registered user.

"I have been repeatedly chased and attacked..."

Are you carrying steaks in your pockets? I've been around a lot of dogs and parks in Palo Alto and elsewhere, and I can't recall an adult being chased and attacked. And repeatedly? Maybe time for a new cologne?

1 person likes this
Posted by MelC
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 20, 2016 at 8:27 am

I use the park regularly and have since the 70s. I appreciate the natural landscape and hope it is kept that way. It is very unfortunate that dogs attacked the donkeys or chased anyone, however, I have not seen any aggressive dogs off leash at the park. Like us, dogs are very social animals and being on leash makes them "uptight". I don't see the harm of letting dogs off leash away from the bike path, donkey pen and children's play area so they can run and play like the rest of us.

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

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