foothills park sign

KCBS Radio/Matt Bigler

'Public' Park's Restriction On Who Can Visit Turns Into Controversy

Matt Bigler
April 22, 2019 - 10:35 am

PALO ALTO (KCBS Radio) - Foothills Park is the aptly named park in the Palo Alto foothills, removed from the stress of Silicon Valley.

It's a green space with plenty of wildlife, hiking trails,  Boronda Lake and gorgeous views of the bay — a place to recharge one's batteries in a natural setting, miles away from Palo Alto proper.

But the peaceful respite the park offers isn't open to everyone. Access is limited to Palo Alto residents and their accompanied guests only. The rule is clearly stated on a large sign erected at the park's entrance.

It's been that way since 1965, when the city purchased the land for the park, and no other nearby towns wanted to chip in. 

Margaret Novotny, a resident and regular visitor, on Monday told KCBS she likes the park with the restrictions. 

"I like the fact that the park is not overrun, It's well kept, and under these circumstances I can support that view," she said. "On weekends in the summer, there are a lot of people up here. Having that many more, the park is not unlimited in size. I like it the way it is."

The San Francisco Chronicle reports a recent tweet from former Palo Alto City Council Member Cory Wolbach stirred the controversy over the park's exclusivity rule to life once again. His tweet reads in part: "My "liberal" hometown #Palo Alto still exemplifies #institutionalracism: Foothills Park is "residents only;""

The debate over the rule has continued on one level or another over the years, but there's nothing official in the works to change it on the city docket.

Written by Diana Shook