In the latest Around Town column, news about plans for next year's Palo Alto Day celebration, local students working to address food waste and community members who assisted a duck family back to the Palo Alto Baylands.
A WINDOW TO OUR TIME … If things go according to plans, some time in 2094 the residents of Palo Alto will look in wonder and bemusement at the array of strange objects that make up our modern reality: reusable boba straws, a Sushirrito catering menu, a Tesla Hot Wheels set, a printout of Town Square comments from Palo Alto Online and dueling lawn signs supporting and opposing the proposed reconstruction of Castilleja School.
They will dig out a time capsule containing these objects, as well as writings from local students, sometime in April as they celebrate Palo Alto Day on the 200th anniversary of the city's existence. That, at least, is the vision presented by a coalition of civic groups, including the Palo Alto Heritage Association, Chamber of Commerce and Palo Alto Museum and pursued by a group of students who make up the museum's Teen Advisory Committee. The project will be part of next year's celebration of Palo Alto Day, a holiday that the council created in late 2018, celebrated in 2019 and largely shelved in 2020 and 2021 as the reality of the pandemic overshadowed any displays of civic pride. It was postponed this year due to the emergence of the omicron variant.
Former Mayor Judy Kleinberg, a longtime proponent of establishing Palo Alto Day, made a case this week for resuming the celebration next year. "Cities of lesser sizes than Palo Alto and, forgive the bragging, of lesser significance, have varying ways to recognize their shared experience, from parades, to community BBQs, to school programs and activities for children and families. We wanted 'something' to do that for Palo Alto," Kleinberg told the council on April 25.
The celebration will likely occur on either April 9, the official Palo Alto Day (which commemorates the day that residents voted in favor of incorporation) or on April 23, the city's actual day of incorporation. In addition to burying modern miscellanea, city officials and civic volunteers plan to reinter a time capsule that their predecessors had buried in 1994 to mark the city's 100th anniversary and had since unearthed, breaking the capsule in the process.
Sonya Cherian, a junior at Castilleja, said that the new capsule includes 74 items from 2019 (the city's 125th year of existence), as well as letters from Teen Council members talking about their hopes, dreams and fears for Palo Alto. There is also a letter talking about COVID-19 and explaining the city's delay in burying the capsule.
The project received a warm reaction from the city leaders, with council member Tom DuBois chuckling at the Teen Council's decision to include a Salt & Straw cup in the capsule. "I do wonder if in the future they will think it's some kind of a delicacy to put salt on a straw," DuBois said.
REDUCING FOOD WASTE … When Palo Alto High sophomores Oscar Anderson and Kai Mirchandani noticed how much food went to waste at their school, they decided to collaborate and fight the problem. Their teamwork resulted in People Plates Planet, their nonprofit that launched on April 22, in conjunction with Earth Day.
The organization aims to "recover surplus food from school campuses and divert to help those suffering from hunger," Anderson wrote in an email to the Weekly. They set up a display with facts about food waste and its impact on climate change. They also placed food-recovery boxes on campus, into which their peers were invited to drop off their unwanted extra, packaged food from the free lunch provided through the school.
The duo delivered the food to nonprofit The Opportunity Center in Palo Alto, where their donations were received and distributed by staff to people in need.
SAFE PASSAGE … Crossing Palo Alto's busy streets can be intimidating, especially for small animals with not very long strides. That's the situation a mother duck and her nine ducklings found themselves in on April 15, according to Pati Rouzer, who helped rescue the feathered family with the aid of other community members.
The ducks were seen on Louis Road and Elsinor Drive, then again on Greer Road, where they were heading east to Oregon Expressway and the Baylands. Concerned about the web-footed creatures, residents contacted the city's Animal Services and were redirected to police dispatch, who informed them that "city services do not cover animal rescue, especially 'after hours,'" according to Rouzer.
The ducks found assistance through a mother and her son who were bicycling through the area. The woman called her husband, who brought their daughter along with a box and a blanket for the ducks. He "proved to be a remarkable duck whisperer," Rouzer said. He navigated his way through shrubbery and provided "soothing reassurances" to the mother duck, who was later named Ms. Mallard since she appeared to look like a member of the namesake breed.
The human family of four, plus Rouzer and another community member, Patty McGann, were eventually able to corral the duck family. The wayward animals were taken to the Baylands and released in an area between the duck pond and tidal mud flats. "We noted that it was Good Friday," said Rouzer, "and agreed that, indeed, it was a Good Friday for nature."