We COWs are blessed to be directly surrounded with greenery, from ancient redwoods to mighty oaks, and we are also nestled in a wider landscape of extremely beautiful state and county parks. As we have noted before, our local parks have provided generations of COWs with a wealth of activities and landscapes to explore.
Lately parks across the county and state have been facing massive challenges. Parks have been threatened with closure across the state due to budget cuts, while locally, the consolidation of the County Parks Department with the Public Works Department in 2009 has been a disaster for our parks system. Twenty percent (20%) of Parks workers have been eliminated in the past four years, so the rising complaints about accumulating trash and reduced services, filthy bathrooms, and major problems with soil erosion and habitat destruction are no surprise. After all, the County Parks system includes more than 20 parks, beaches, and historical sites covering 17,000 acres, and has proved too big to manage with the limited resources.
Even with the help of many volunteers, our local jewels of Huddart Park and Wunderlich Park have suffered from the lack of official attention. The recent fire at Huddart Park caused by a downed power line, reminds us of how vulnerable these landscapes are. While that fire was knocked down pretty quickly due to excellent work by firefighters, the possible danger posed by budget cuts is clear. Less maintenance and undergrowth removal could well feed future out of control fires in the parks that could quite possibly spread into the Town proper.
Fortunately, County residents passed Measure A last November. $5.2 million of the money raised from the half-cent sales tax will be used for upgrading our parks (http://www.mercurynews.com/san-mateo-county-times/ci_23101289/san-mateo-county-supes-ok-5-2-million) and reestablishing a separate Parks department with its own full time staff, including new rangers for the newly created Devil’s Slide Park on the San Mateo County coast. $4.2 million of that will go to park maintenance and capital improvement projects.
Jim Nantell, former Burlingame City Manager, has been tapped to run the newly revived department on a temporary basis.
We’re so glad that the outlook is finally looking up for our local parks! Whether riding your horse or hiking through Huddart and Wunderlich, or visiting the Woodside Store, learning about local wildlife at Coyote Point, or enjoying the ocean at Pillar Point Bluff, you’ll be reminded how lucky we all are to live here.
Now, we just hope the State Parks system can also get its act together!