In the latest Around Town column, read about a proposal to loosen the city's leash law, the winners of the inaugural Silicon Valley Photo Contest and a scientific discovery made at the Palo Alto Baylands.
LOOSENING THE LEASH ... Members of Palo Alto's Parks and Recreation Commission offered a treat to local dog owners this week when they proposed loosening the city's leash law. The program, proposed by an ad hoc committee of the parks commission, would allow dogs to run free during designated hours in certain parks. While the city is still considering which parks to include in the new pilot program, Eleanor Pardee and Heritage parks have both been discussed, according to Daren Anderson, a Community Services Department division manager. The city also is still eyeing ways to add new dog parks, particularly in the northern half of the city. Last year, the city added its first dog park north of Oregon Expressway, in Peers Park. While parks commissioners and city staff support building a new dog park in Pardee Park, the project has stalled due to neighbor opposition. Commissioner David Moss said Tuesday that he was concerned about allowing a small group of residents to kill a project that would benefit the entire area. "It's a serious problem if we let five neighbors overrule what 20,000 people in north Palo Alto could benefit from." At the moment, however, the commission is considering a less contentious proposal for the coming year: expanding and improving existing dog parks in Greer and Mitchell parks. The ad hoc committee had also proposed a pilot project that would create off-leash hours at various parks. While Commissioner Keith Reckdahl was concerned about parks getting sullied by dog waste, other commissioners said they support giving the program a shot. They also underscored that the success of the program will largely depend on how well dog owners are able to "police" themselves — whether by chiding or cleaning up after the estimated 3% who don't pick up their dogs' waste.
HIDDEN GEMS ... This week, the inaugural Silicon Valley Photo Contest announced its first-ever winners whose works will soon be on display in Palo Alto. Adults and children were challenged to submit works revolving around the theme, "What I Love About Silicon Valley." In the adult category, J.C. Wang of the Almaden neighborhood in San Jose won over the judges with his work that merges the Milky Way as seen at night and "the silhouette of a futuristic car," according to a press release issued Monday. Los Altos High School's Emily McNally came out on top in the youth category for her slice-of-life-image: a silhouette of two girls walking at Shoreline Park in Mountain View at sunset. The image of a disappearing sun also worked well for Caroline Rose, an adult winner for her shot of a sunset shining over "a very lush green landscape" at Menlo Park's Bedwell Bayfront Park. Rose was one of two winners picked based on a popular vote among the finalists. The other was Milpitas High School's Tran Le, who submitted a photo of a young woman admiring cherry blossoms while sitting on a park bench. All four winners' works will be on display at Rinconada Library next month. The contest's co-sponsors are the Midpen Media Center (which initiated the contest), Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, Palo Alto City Library and Redwood City-based Sequoia Art Group. See the winning works on the Midpen Media Center’s Facebook page.
TINY DANCERS ... The hunt for wild samples of tiny organisms for research at Stanford University led one scientist to the Palo Alto Baylands, where he discovered a new kind of intercellular communication chronicled in a paper published July 10 in the scientific journal Nature. Using his origami microscope — a Foldscope valued at $1.75 — Manu Prakash watched a single-cell organism, Spirostomum, undergo super speedy contractions. "This is a massive cell but it contracts in less than a blink of an eye, accelerating faster than almost any other single cell. When you aren't expecting it, it's like it disappears," he told Stanford News Service. Prakash, an associate professor in bioengineering, learned through further studies at Stanford that the contraction unfolds in about 5 milliseconds and the cell experiences 14 times the force of gravity. "It's possible this is more universal than we've described so far and is a way many different kinds of organisms communicate," added lead author Arnold Mathijssen, postdoctoral scholar at Stanford's Prakash Lab.