Foothills Park

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Foothills Park is a beautiful 1,400-acre open-space park located in Palo Alto. The park is open to Palo Alto residents and their guests only and proof of residency is required. The park has rugged chaparral, woodland, fields, streams, a lake, and spectacular views of the bay area. Wildlife abounds, and it is common to see deer and coyotes; if you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of a bobcat. Amenities include hiking trails, Lake for fishing and boating, camping facilities, a Nature Interpretive Center and picnic facilities.


[edit] A Brief History

The city of Palo Alto purchased Foothills Park in 1958, in a $1.294 million deal proposed by Dr. Russel V. Lee. Palo Alto supposedly offered the neighboring cities of Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills and Los Altos a chance to buy into the park purchase, and share the land, but they weren't interested. The park officially opened to the public in 1965, and from that point on Foothills Park was a Palo Alto-resident-only area.

[edit] Park Access Dispute

Since its opening in 1965, the naturally rich preservation has been a key aspect to Palo Alto's identity, and also an ongoing topic for dispute, as the park is only open to Palo Alto residents. While the idea to open up Foothills Park has been frequently talked about amongst the community, the city has rarely confronted the issue, always voting against further talks with the Parks and Recreation Commission.

[edit] Reconsiderations

Since its opening, the city has only reconsidered the Palo Alto-residents-only policy three times: 1973, 1991, and 2005.

[edit] 1973

In 1973, the city discussed this issue, but only for the sole reason of following through with a promise to assess the Foothills situation that they made back in 1965. The council was in complete agreement, and casted a unanimous vote to continue to keep Foothills Park closed off to non-Palo Alto residents.

[edit] 1991

The policy was left alone until 1991, when city council member Ron Anderson made an unsuccessful attempt to open the foothills to nonresidents. He argued that most of Palo Alto's tax money came from commuters who worked in the city, but lived in other communities. He said that the residents had been more than compensated for their original investment in the property. The proposal was voted on, and once again turned down in a 5-4 vote.

[edit] 2005

The issue wasn't seriously talked about again until 2005, when council members LaDoris Cordell, Judy Kleinburg and Dena Mossar requested approval to have the Parks and Recreation Commission study opening the park to nonresidents. Cordell argued that, "It is true we bought it (Foothills Park), but we did not create it. I cannot fathom anyone here believing that the maker of this park made it just for Palo Altans. ...It is difficult for me to imagine one single reason for not discussing this issue unless there is something dangerous about simply talking about this subject." Cordelll also acknowledged racism allegations towards the policy, saying, "The perception sometimes is as important as the reality." But when all was said and done, the council, yet again, turned down the proposal in another 5-4 vote. Jack Morton, one of the five that voted against it, predicted that holding a discussion would, "start another community war." He also said that keeping the park closed, "is not an issue of political correctness," and that opening it up is, "a prescription for environmental degradation."

[edit] 2007

The Foothills Park debate was revived in July of 2007 when talks about Los Altos Hills paying for access to the park started developing. An annual payment of $135,000 by Los Altos Hills to Palo Alto was the fgure being floated, however the deal faced some stiff opposition. Many members of the council, like LaDoris Cordell, felt the idea of paying for access is unethical. "It strikes me as being elitist," Cordell said, "It's sending a message that you can get in if you have enough money to get in."

[edit] Controversy

This policy has been heavily disputed by non-Palo Alto and Palo Alto residents ever since its implementation.

People wanting to keep the park closed off argue that the ecosystem of the foothills is too fragile to open it to any more people than it already is; claiming that non-residents could cause unwanted damage and pollution.

[edit] External Links

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