Neighbors don’t like park plan

Laurelwood residents stridently oppose a city plan that would update playground equipment and add bathrooms and parking at Laurelwood Park and create 1.8 miles of new trails on Sugarloaf Mountain.

Ironically, San Mateo’s Laurelwood Park and Sugarloaf Mountain management plan, more than two years in the making, was born out of the neighborhood’s desire to update 30-year-old playground equipment at the neighborhood park. Now, those neighbors fear that the plan — which heads to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday — will bring added crime and traffic to their traditionally low-key park.

Local teens already haunt the park at night, which provides secluded areas conducive to underage drinking, according to resident Jim Hudspeth.

“We’ve had some minor incidents, but if you start putting in bathrooms and opening it up, we’re concerned about crime,” Hudspeth said. “What are they going to do to patrol it at night?”

Laurelwood homeowners cherish the 37-acre Laurelwood Park and adjacent 188-acre Sugarloaf Mountain, which consist of primarily wild terrain and a plethora of untamed animals, from birds to deer and coyotes. Residents worked to preserve both as open space, a plan that ultimately failed, according to Georgette Sarles, president of the Laurelwood Homeowners Association.

San Mateo began developing the management plan in 2004, and recently took public comment on the plan and its environmental effects. Comments included concerns about controlling cyclists on the Sugarloaf trail and the impact that added park amenities could have on local wildlife.

The city has set aside $1 million for park renovations, but has not yet identified funds for a new, accessible trail on Sugarloaf Mountain, according to city landscape architect Dennis Frank.

Until now, intrepid hikers have scaled the 350-foot-peak using existing firebreaks — vertical scars running up the side of hill — which would be removed. Instead of the firebreaks, the city proposes pruning vegetation near homes, a responsibility that would be shared by the city and homeowners, Frank said.

“We don’t want to have to maintain the pruning,” said Sarles, who predicted that only a handful of hikers would use the new trail. “It’s worked fine for 45 years. Why should we have to do anything differently now?”

The San Mateo Parks and Recreation Commission meets Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 330 West 20th Ave.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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