Menlo Park, San Carlos look to enhance their parklands

Peninsula cities are going green the old-fashioned way — by focusing on their parks.

Menlo Park leaders are poised today to greenlight a new study determining where the city’s sports and playing fields can be expanded, returfed and lighted for more hours of play. After plans to build a golf course and athletic fields at Bayfront Park fell through in 2006, the city has a shortage of playing space, particularly for youth teams, Mayor Kelly Fergusson said.

While the city negotiated with golf-course developers, members of the Parks and Recreation Commission, including now-Councilmember Richard Cline, examined how existing fields could be expanded, renovated with synthetic turf or both. Those findings could be included in a new study, if the City Council approves a $42,917 study by Callander Associates, Fergusson said.

“There’s a high demand for the existing fields, and they are being used to the max,” Fergusson said.

However, Menlo Park has already run afoul of synthetic-turf opponents this year, when residents fought a plan to bring fake grass to Encinal Elementary School.

Any park construction or renovation would be paid for by developer in-lieu fees, Fergusson said.

Despite the potential controversy surrounding artificial turf — which has also sprouted up in San Carlos and Belmont — the material, along with the addition of field lights for nighttime play “are of particular interest for consideration” in the Callander study, according to a report from Menlo Park civil engineer Lawrence Johnson.

“We always have to consider all voices and impacts whenever we make decisions of this nature,” Fergusson said.

Meanwhile, San Carlos pushed ahead with long-range plans for its parks Monday night. A recent survey of residents found that, while many support an increase of park space and athletic fields — to relieve a shortage much like Menlo Park’s — they also would like more hiking trails, according to a report from Parks and Recreation Director Barry Weiss.

The emphasis on trails surprised some, including San Carlos Councilmember Bob Grassilli.

“People haven’t told us verbally or by e-mail [that they want more trails], but obviously they’re interested in it,” Grassilli said. Residents have told council members that they’d like more open space and more developed parks with sports fields, he added.

The San Carlos City Council met Monday. The Menlo Park City Council meets today at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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