$6 fee for non-residents proposed for Foothills Park

It’s a misdemeanor for a non Palo Alto resident to enter Foothills Park without permission. File photo.

BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto might let up to 50 non-residents into Foothills Park each day — but only if they register in advance online and pay $6.

Foothills Park has been closed to non-residents in cars since 1965. People from other cities can get into the park if they hike or bike in from the Bay Ridge trail, Arastradero Preserve or Los Trancos Open Space Preserve.

The city’s basis for keeping the 1,400-acre park closed is that when Palo Alto purchased the land in 1959, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills were asked to contribute, but they refused. The policy has been debated for decades but has kept it closed.

A letter signed this month by local politicians and religious leaders including Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Assemblyman Marc Berman says closing off the park sends a bad message to neighboring cities, especially those that are poor.

On Tuesday, City Council will hear a pitch from the Parks and Recreation Commission for a pilot program to let non-residents into the park. The proposed program would last a year. Non-residents would be able to register for passes to the park through an online portal. No more than 50 passes would be available each day unless there is a school field trip. The city would be able to adjust the number of passes based on how many visitors come.

Non-residents would pay $6 for a day pass with the money going to keeping the park entry gate staffed. Staffing the gate costs $89,000 a year, according to the city.

Residents’ access would not change under the proposed plan.

If council likes the idea, City Manager Ed Shikada will make an ordinance amending the municipal code for council to vote on.

The park gets about 152,000 visitors a year and turns away about 3,000 non-residents each year, according to the city.

9 Comments

    • It is! And, they should do it by people buying passes — a percent of which can then pay for the parking and policing that comes with it. Same with Foothills — you buy a season pass, that way when people trash it up with graffiti, beer cans and coals, we can identify who did it.

  1. Let me begin by setting one thing straight, the issue of opening Foothill Park to Non-Residents has absolutely nothing to do with race or discrimination, it is about city access, nothing more or less than that. When the cities of Los Altos, Menlo Atherton, Portola Valley are included in the list of cities that are not permitted to enter Foothill Park then you know it is not about race or discrimination of any kind!!! Especially considering Los Altos is located right next door to the park.

    I grew up in Palo Alto and have been going to Foothill Park all my life. It is an absolutely beautiful park and we should do everything in our power to keep it that way. Opening the park up to Non-Residents of Palo Alto will lead to large crowds, lots of noise, traffic and probably the destruction of some of the beautiful scenic trails due to overuse.

    If you want an idea of what Foothill Park will turn into by opening it up to Non-Residents then just visit one of these many parks on the weekend; Mitchel Park, Rinconada Park, the Dish, or Rancho San Antonio. All of these places are very nice, but they all have large crowds, lots of noise, parking challenges and many other issues that come with large crowds.

    One issue that I have not seen raised is the parking issue. Foothill Park does not have that many parking spaces and on weekends when the park is busy a majority of the parking places are taken. If the park is opened up to Non-Residents parking could become a nightmare. Now I know someone is going to say the way to solve this is to limit the number of cars entering the park. Ok fine. Now what you create is a line of cars lining up at the gate before it opens to make sure they get into the park. Or you create a reservation system like Mitchel Park has where you have to call two to three months in advance in the summer to reserve a picnic table.

    Is this what we want Foothill Park to turn into?

    Currently if you are a Palo Alto resident you can make a decision on Friday night to go to Foothill Park with your family on Saturday without making any reservations or paying any fees and have a nice picnic or take a walk on one of the beautiful trails. If you open the park up to Non-Residents this will all change. There is a good chance that when you drive to the gate to try and enter the park without a reservation you will be turned away because the park is FULL!! That’s right full, turn around and go back home!! Well after experiencing this a couple of times you will either stop going to the park or give into the reservation system for a simple picnic with your family.

    Also need to understand that a full Foothill Park will be significantly different then a full Mitchel Park. When the Mitchel Park parking lot is full you can still park in the surrounding neighborhood and proceed to take a walk around the park or visit the kids play area even if there is no table available for a picnic.

    Now with a full Foothill Park there is no neighborhood to park in, you will not be allowed in the park at all once it is full. Again turn around and go back home!! Maybe the Park Ranger will be nice enough to give you a little advice such as “Next time make sure you get here by 7:00 am and line up at the gate to wait for the park to open at 8:00 am to ensure you get into the park”.

    I ask again, is this really what we want Foothill Park to turn into?

    Ok now that I have said my two cents, let say the city feels it really has to offer Non-Residents a chance to visit the park, here are a couple of suggestions for a TRIAL BASIS ONLY:
    1. Option #1 – Open the park up to a LIMITED amount of Non-Residents (maybe 30% of parks capacity) once a month, maybe every 4th weekend of the month for a six month trial and charge them a fee.

    2. Option #2 – Select specific weekends (maybe a total of 5 weekends) each year Non-Residents can use the park and charge them an entry fee. Limit the number of Non-Residents to 30%-50% of parks capacity on these days. This system would give Palo Alto residents advance notice to possible stay away from the park on these days.

    In closing, let us not forget the reason why Foothill Park is for Palo Alto residents. In short, many years ago when the land was purchased none of the other local cities wanted to pitch in money to pay for the land. Thus Palo Alto footed the entire bill; and thus only its own taxpayers benefit. If the purchase of the land would have resulted in a less then favorable outcome, do you think the other cities would be offering to reimburse Palo Alto for its expenses at the time of purchase or for the cost of all the numerous improvements and maintenance costs incurred over the years?? Probably not. Everybody wants to jump on the band wagon when something is a success, however many shy away from the initial investment that is needed to create the successful project. This is exactly what is happening here with Foothill Park, now that the park is a success other cities want to jump on board.

    Let’s hope our City Council members can be strong and not give in to outside pressure coming from those who spend very little time in the park if any at all.

    Again, to our City Council members, please remember that you CAN’T CALL IT DISCRIMINATION of any kind whatsoever when Los Altos, Menlo Atherton, Portola Valley are on the list of cities not allowed to enter the park!!!!

  2. I support this $6 admission proposal, and I also suggest fees for annual/quarter access packages. However, the protesters would say they are discriminated by where they live since non Palo Alto residents are treated differently, etc.

  3. No to admitting non residents. There is a cost. These proposals seem to fly in the face of reality. Excluding non residents has nothing to do w racism.

  4. Y’all are actually stupid. Gate keeping your shorty little park. Guess what, don’t come to Portola Valley and Woodside—you guys aren’t welcome here. People around here don’t like Palo Alto residents much, and these comments show why. Stay in your filthy little town and away from ours.

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