SPECIAL ALERT — The San Mateo County Parks Department is holding a Community meeting via Zoom to present the plan and get input from the community. It’s on Wednesday, February 2nd, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM. Please attend and speak up for keeping the woodland intact! You can reach the meeting online by clicking this link.

In the heart of the Flood Park woodland
Oak tree cut down

San Mateo County is trying to Reimagine Flood Park.
The plan includes cutting down the heart of the woodland.


Planners intend to cut down 72 park trees. 22 of them — over 1.7 acres — make up the heart of Flood Park’s cherished woodland, where they want to make room for an additional soccer field. The underlying problem is, there’s not enough room in the park for everything people want. You can read more below>>


There are alternatives that support the soccer, lacrosse, and baseball communities without removing so much of the woodland. You can read more below>>


On February 2, after six years of stop-and-start, the Reimagine Flood Park planning process is coming up to a formal Community Meeting for input. It may be the last chance for the community to reverse the destruction of the trees. Please come and participate! Due to COVID, it’s being held online via Zoom, Wednesday February 2nd, from 5:30 to 7 PM. You can click this link to join the meeting.

You can read more about the planning process below>>


The trees will be destroyed unless people in the community take action—both working within the official planning process, and going beyond it. Can conservation advocates muster enough participants to influence the plan? Farther down this page, you’ll find a list of actions you can take. You can jump to that list with this link>>


There’s a lot of material below, perhaps more than you’ll want to read through in one sitting. If you take a break along the way, you can use the above links like chapter headings to pick up where you left off.

Thanks in advance for taking a look! I hope to see you in the park! — Assembled by Mike Murphy, 01-01-2022

In addition, it would be great if you could send us feedback about this page! Often times, we prepare a page like this, but never find out the response of people who view it. Please tell us what you think! E-mail your comments to info@FloodPark.org.



Background, Discussion, and Commentary

In its ambition to add multiple sports fields, the plan to Reimagine Flood Park falls far out of balance.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Families_Under_Trees_Alice_900.jpg

For decades, Flood Park has balanced sports, nature, and family recreation. The northeast side of the park is filled with sports facilities. On the southwest side, family play and picnic areas are nestled within a woodland — an expanse of oak, bay, redwood and other trees, many native to the site from a time before the surrounding cities were built, some inherited from the Flood estate when the park was founded, and some planted by park foresters.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Celebration_with_Band_900.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Couple_among_Trees_900.jpg

The woodland has hosted generations of family celebrations, and on holidays, hundreds of picnickers fill the group sites. The playgrounds among the trees are used every day, birders track dozens of species, and many people visit this spacious natural environment as a refuge from urban bustle.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Picnic_under_trees_crop-H_900.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Family_group_plus_Volleyball_900.jpg

For people who live nearby in urban neighborhoods, starved for natural green space, Flood Park provides easy access to this historic woodland, which once spanned thousands of acres along the peninsula, but now has almost all been cleared, or is out of reach on private property.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Picnic_under_trees_R_C_1024.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Habitat_Management_CU_B_900.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ceramic_Guide_2000_CU_900.jpg

In some years, the County has nurtured and honored the woodland. In others, the tree-and-grass ecosystem simply continued its quiet life, not getting much attention from County officials, but cherished by the community.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Tree-valuable-asset_A_1024.jpg
Trees that will be cut in the Reimagine Plan

Many people count the woodland among their favorite places, for reasons deeper than fun or exercise. A walk in this grove can bring a sense of renewed peace, joy, and connection to the natural world.

If the County succeeds in its cutting plan, people will mourn for these trees.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Trees_Lost_H_1024-912x1024.jpg

Sports facilities

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Volleyball_Sandlot_under_Trees_cropped_H.jpg

The most played sport in the park today is volleyball, on sand courts tucked in among the trees.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Tennis_Broken_A_900.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Baseball_Field_Ron_900.jpg

The large sports facilities were also very popular for many years, but have fallen into disrepair. Broken pavement makes the tennis courts hard to use, and the large baseball field has been sitting idle for years, its outfield riddled with ground squirrel burrows.


In May of 2015, the County Parks Department decided that, rather than just catching up on deferred maintenance, it wanted to “reimagine” the park.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RFP_2015_composite_D-1024x384.jpg

Although planners duly noted that the community asked for the top priority to be “to preserve trees and natural park character,” their imagination was focused more on constructing new amenities, including gathering plazas, a demonstration garden, a long, paved promenade, and an array of new sports facilities, including basketball, new tennis and volleyball courts, a bicycle pump track, and — for the first time at the park — a field for soccer.

The “Central Park” version in the summer of 2015 — the first appearance of a soccer field as a development option. Much of the woodland is removed.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough room in the park to build the full wishlist of concepts that were proposed without taking out a large portion of the woodland prized by the community. This is the root planning problem that has led to six years of controversies.

Constituencies within the community that are usually supportive of each other (such as environmental advocates and youth sports) are finding themselves competing for space. A petition to save the native trees has been signed by more than 2800 people. Looking to the future, people are worried that the park might have to restrict access to avoid running out of parking when picnic sites and ball fields are both in demand. These are all symptoms of trying to build too many features into a space that isn’t big enough.

If you want to learn more about the troubled development process from 2015 until today, you can read the history at the independent web site FloodPark.org, and you can review some of of the official documents at the County website, https://parks.smcgov.org/realize-flood-park or at FloodPark.org

The current situation

As of January, 2022, the underlying problem — too many features, too little space — has still not been resolved.

2020 Revised Conceptual Landscape Plan — the most recent published plan

The planners continue to assert that they are committed to “preserve trees and natural park character” — but their plan still shows a soccer field that will require cutting down the heart of the woodland, and the soccer amenity has actually grown, to two large fields.

Advocates for the woodland are pushing the County to accept any of several alternates that would reduce the amount of tree cutting.

It’s not yet clear what alterations the County might accept, if any.


To cut or not to cut … and where?

Let’s look a bit deeper at the County’s planned cuts and at possible alternatives.

Trees to be removed
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Tree_Removal_Closer_View_A_1024.jpg

The areas in red show the canopies of existing trees that will be cut down to make room for the soccer fields and other amenities. The 2020 Tree Removal plan calls for removing 72 park trees, 22 of which are in the heart of the woodland, in the lower part of the map.

Many of the advocates for conserving the woodland recognize the value of compromise, and are willing to accept removing trees along the eastern margin (the upper area on the map). Many of these are aging Strawberry trees in poor health. However, advocates ask that the promenade, plazas and playgrounds be revised to build around the historic oaks, rather than remove them, and they are very strongly opposed to clear cutting the heart of the woodland.

They’re proposing a range of alternates that would still serve the soccer, lacrosse, and baseball communities without requiring so many trees to be destroyed.


Alternates

To tackle the problem of “too many features, too little space,” it makes sense to try combining features, reducing features, eliminating some features, or making the space bigger.

Here are several alternate layouts that explore these approaches, while keeping a high priority on protecting the woodland.

For comparison, here’s the layout in the 2020 Revised Conceptual Landscape Plan.


Alternate A

Alternate A, closer view

Features of Alternate A:

  • The heart of the woodland remains intact!
  • Playing field availability the same as the 2020 Landscape Plan
  • Dedicated full-size soccer field — does not require time-share with baseball.
  • Second full-sized soccer area available as part of a very large multi-use overlay with baseball. Additional outh/practice/pickup field is available as well. Scheduling of multi-use allocation would be at the discretion of park officials.
  • There is an additional non-shared playing area available for pick-up. practice, or youth competition.
  • Possible to schedule baseball and soccer games at the same time.
  • Reaches further into margin of woodland area than other multi-use alternates — an additional 10 to 12 trees would be removed.
  • Loss of trees at the woodland margin is preferable to loss of trees in the middle of the woodland.
  • Some features and amenities of the 2020 Landscape Plan need to shifted to accommodate the soccer field. The promenade has been shifted toward Bay Road. The gathering plaza has be moved to the other side of the adobe building.

Alternate B

Alternate B Closer View

Features of Alternate B:

  • Central woodland remains intact!
  • Three flex fields for competition, practice, and pick-up use
  • Biggest field is full size for adult competition, smaller fields are great for practice, pick-up play
  • More efficient use of multi-use space than the 2020 Landscape Plan
  • Large budget savings from not cutting woodland trees and not having to grade and prep additional ground for turf
  • Small field is always available, does not rotate with baseball
  • Makes it easy to provide both programmed sessions and room for pick-up users
  • One possible baseball and soccer/lacrosse 50% rotation alternate days during the week, weekends could alternate Saturday/Sunday use

Alternate C

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FP-MMap_ALT-C_entrance-med_CU_A_1024.jpg
Alternate C closer view

Features of Alternate C:

  • Central woodland remains intact! However, this alternative does involve the trade-off of requiring removal of four mature oaks near the entrance. This tree loss could be eliminated by changing to a smaller field.
  • All the benefits of Alternate B, plus an additional medium-sized Flex Field near the entrance.
  • The entrance field’s schedule would be independent of the baseball rotation. Great for full-time access for practice, pick-up users, and competition up to the U-11 middle school level. Can be programmed or free-access at discretion of schedulers.
  • The multi-use field(s) would participate in rotation with baseball users. A possible rotation would be alternate days.
  • This placement displaces both the demonstration garden and an event area. There are many locations they could be moved to, not indicated on this map.

Alternate D

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FP-MMap_ALT-B_Unmarked_CU_A_1024.jpg
Alternate D closer view

Features of Alternate D:

  • Central woodland remains intact!
  • No permanent markings means maximum flexibility for configuration of field sports, for practice, competition, or pick-up play
  • Most efficient use of multi-use space
  • Large budget savings from not cutting woodland trees and not having to grade and prep additional ground for turf
  • Right side of area does not require rotation with baseball, is available full-time
  • Makes it easy to provide both programmed sessions and room for pick-up users
  • One possible baseball and soccer/lacrosse 50% rotation alternate days during the week, weekends could alternate Saturday/Sunday use

Alternate E

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FP-MMap_ALT-D_Extend_CU_A_1024.jpg

Features of Alternate E:

  • Central woodland remains intact!
  • The park is extended to include the site of the former James Flood School, now a vacant lot that belongs to the Ravenswood City School District. The site is right next to the park, separated only by a fence. Entry and Exit via the park prevents against neighborhood traffic issues. Would use existing parking.
  • This alternate is a “long shot” because it would require the Ravenswood City School District to be willing to make the land available for Flood Park use. At this time, they’re hoping to lease the land to housing developers, to generate income.
  • A full size Flex field would be placed on the newly acquired lot
  • The Flood School fields are independent of the rotation with baseball users, available full time. Can be programmed or used for pick-up play at the discretion of schedulers.
  • Extra green space can be used for additional sports fields, additional amenities. Or, relocate maintenance yard and use that space for other amenities.
  • All the benefits of the maximum flexibility multi-use field of Alternate B
  • Multi-use area would still share space with baseball, but the baseball schedule could now be given much greater priority
  • Least disruption of both woodlands and other amenities
  • Requires substantial financing

These alternatives have been brought to the attention of both the Parks Department and the planners hired to prepare the detailed designs, but it’s not clear what it would take to persuade them to adopt any of them.

How will the Reimagine Flood Park plan evolve?
What alterations will the community be allowed to ask for?

Here’s the County’s official timeline for the project as of the date this is written (01-01-2022). The next phase calls for getting input from the community before moving into detailed design.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is County_Timeline_Capture_12-30-2021_1024.jpg

The official public channel — the Community Meetings, also known as the Public Input Workshops

Many people thoroughly hate going to meetings, but in this case, that might be what it takes to save the heart of the woodland.

Official County Announcement

“In 2022, the Flood Park Project will transition from reimagining to realizing a new park for the community. Building upon the vision developed for Flood Park in 2015, we will ask the community to join us again to help design 2020 Landscape Plan features. Beginning in early February and continuing to the fall, we will host a variety of events, including meetings, community events and online activities to gather your ideas.” — from the County’s web page parks.smcgov.org/press-release/flood-park-project-transitions-reimagine-realize on 01-01-2022

Advocates are hoping that the official public process will offer a path to their goal saving the heart of the woodland. But is that realistic? The 2020 Landscape Plan explicitly puts one of the soccer/lacrosse fields in the middle of the woodland, and the Parks Department’s carefully worded statements are ambiguous about how much alteration to that Plan will be allowed.

Sometimes, officials declare that ” … the 2020 Landscape Plan … is not being reconsidered.” Other times, they say “community input will help develop … the size, placement, and surface type of ball fields” along with other “details.”

The first statement could be read as ruling out saving the heart of the woodland, while the second offers room for negotiation.

To encourage planners to take the second, more flexible stance, woodland advocates will try to get many supporters to come to the public sessions to demonstrate that many, many people in the community want the heart of the woodland to be kept intact.

The first public input session on the project in several years has been set for Wednesday, February 2nd, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM. It’s being held online, via Zoom, because of COVID.

You can join the meeting by clicking this link.

You can also check details about the meeting at the County web site, which you can reach by clicking this link.

A parallel channel — the Working Group

In addition to the official, open-to-the-public Community Meetings (sometimes also referred to as Public Input Workshops), a second, parallel, invitation-only channel for input has been created, called the Working Group.

Official County Announcement

“As part of the community engagement process, the Department has formed a Working Group of diverse stakeholder perspectives to discuss goals and preferences for how to implement the Landscape Plan. The Working Group includes 10 to 12 representatives that will meet up to six times throughout the project.”

“The Working Group’s purpose is to provide a productive venue to listen to and share a range of perspectives, seek shared understanding about how to balance the goals regarding the park design, and enlist community leaders in sharing information on the park design process with the larger community.” — From the County web page parks.smcgov.org/realize-flood-park-project-update

As with the open Community Meetings, it’s unclear whether the County will allow the Working Group to consider moving the mid-woodland soccer/lacrosse field. Their first meeting was held December 13th, and did not take up the question. You can watch a recording of the meeting at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtpNckefv1s&t=4s

So far, there is no official way for the public to give information to, or make requests of, the Working Group. One of the invited members of the Working Group is associated with the woodland advocates, and can provide that perspective to the group. In addition, there will be strong outreach to other members of the group, trying to persuade them to make choices that respect the woodland.

A third path — acting on our own

There’s a strong chance that neither the Public Input Workshop nor the Working Group will persuade the Reimagine planners and the Parks Director to move the soccer field out of the central woodland.

Advocates are also making the case directly to the County Board of Supervisors, which has final authority over both the plan and the parks department. And the same outreach efforts that will rally support and bring people to the Public Input Workshop will also encourage them to ask the Supervisors to intervene.

What will this outreach look like? What kinds of action might help?


How to take action to help save the woodland

Attend the Community Meetings/Public Input Workshop!

It’s very possible that the fate of the heart of the woodland will be decided at the February meeting!

Our biggest impact will almost certainly come not from the eloquence of our presentation, but from the number of people that we can convince to show up, and speak up.

PLEASE ATTEND THE FEBRUARY PUBLIC INPUT WOKSHOP AND SPEAK UP FOR THE WOODLAND!

DO YOU HATE GOING TO MEETINGS? GO TO THIS ONE ANYWAY.

DON’T COUNT ON SOMEBODY ELSE TO HANDLE IT.

IT’S GOING TO BE UP TO YOU!

The County’s official Community Meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, February 2nd, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM. It will be held online, via Zoom, because of COVID. You can join the meeting by clicking this link.

You can also go to the County website for updates on the Reimagine project: parks.smcgov.org/realize-flood-park-project-updates

Sign the petition to Save Flood Park native trees!

Use this link to go to the petition, which was launched in April 2021 and has received thousands of signatures — https://www.change.org/p/save-flood-park-native-trees

Tell the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and other County officials that we want to save the heart of the woodland!

The new park design will have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. Community issues do sometimes cause them to take action, and they have already intervened once in the Reimagine Flood Park project, sending a proposal back for further work after neighbors objected to the placement of the soccer/lacrosse field. As the final authority in San Mateo County, they have a very strong influence on choices made in the Parks Department.

You can e-mail them directly at these addresses.

When you do, please also include a :cc to Contact@FloodPark.org, so that we can track the effectiveness of our outreach efforts.

Board of Supervisors
Don Horsley  dHorsley@smcgov.org
Warren Slocum  wSlocum@smcgov.org
Carol Groom  cGroom@smcgov.org
Dave Pine  dPine@smcgov.org
David Canepa  dCanepa@smcgov.org

There is also an address that sends a message to the full board, used for board meetings: BoardFeedBack@smcgov.org

It’s also a great idea to speak out during the Public Comment segment at the begining of meetings of the board. You can speak for one or two minutes, depending on how busy the agenda is that day.
Board meetings are usually at 9:00 AM, Tuesday morning, every other week. You can see their event schedule at https://bos.smcgov.org/board-supervisors-events

Parks Commission

It can also help to be in contact with the Parks Commission, and to speak out during the Public Comment segment of their meetings. A good place to start is with the Parks Commission website at https://parks.smcgov.org/parks-commission

County Manager and County Parks Director

You can also send e-mails to the County Manager, Mike Callagy, and the County Parks Director, Nicholas Calderon. Mr. Calderon is the one directly in charge of the Reimagine Flood Park project. Here are their addresses.

County Manager, Michael Callagy mCallagy@smcgov.org
County Parks Director, Nicholas Calderon nCalderon@smcgov.org 

Again, if you e-mail someone in County Government, please include a :cc to Contact@FloodPark.org so we can track the effectiveness of our outreach materials (such as this online essay).

Spread the word among your friends!

Direct person-to-person contact is a very powerful kind of communication. Tell your friends about the situation in Flood Park and see if they’d be willing to help you save the heart of the woodland. Bring your friends to the Public Input Workshop. This time around, success is largely going to be a matter of numbers.

You don’t have to be part of an organization, you can just go do it. 🙂

Join in neighborhood awareness gatherings!

During the month of January, we plan to hold gatherings on the neighborhood scale. Because of COVID-19, these may have to be online. We’ll be meeting in conjunction with neighborhood associations, local environmental interest groups, and local residents who have become interested through our outreach effort. We’ll be presenting our case, sharing stories of the park, and listening to what people in the neighborhoods have to say. Please join us! Use this form to receive e-mail notifications as these sessions are scheduled.

Help in advocacy work—outreach, research, front-line and more

Many of the efforts to save the heart of the woodland have been the work of a small group of volunteers from the community. We’re approaching “crunch time” and are in great need of help on many fronts. Here are things you could help us do right away.

  • Deliver printed handouts to residences in areas including Menlo Park, North Fair Oaks, Redwood City, Atherton, Belle Haven, and East Palo Alto.
  • Research the needs for soccer, lacrosse, and baseball fields in the area, which will involve contacting city staff, team coaches, league organizers, etc.
  • Visit soccer, lacrosse, and baseball fields in the area to learn how heavily they are used and to reach out to these communities with handouts
  • Help organize and run both online and in-person neighborhood meetings to spread the word and recruit people to attend the February Public Input meeting.
  • Help prepare both digital and print outreach materials.

You can get more information by e-mailing Contact@FloodPark.org

You can learn more by choosing topics from the menu at the top of the page.