An interpretive center to educate children and adults about the ecological system and how the lake is replenished. A dog park that would offer pet owners another place to take their pooches in town complete with a dog wash, agility course and swimming hole. A pavilion where families could hold anniversary or birthday parties and businesses could host company picnics. These were among the suggestions made for improving Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area at a recent scoping meeting hosted by the East Bay Regional Park District.
The park district, which owns and manages the 90-acre lake, picnic areas and hiking trails, is in the process of updating a land use plan for Shadow Cliffs. In a presentation May 4 at the Pleasanton Library, park planners said the district has a number of ideas for taking the popular recreation spot into the future, but emphasized at the same time that "future" was the keyword.
"There's no specific funding for Shadow Cliffs," said senior park planner Brian Wiese. "The land use plan is long-term. The sky is almost the limit."
But that didn't put a damper on any discussion of what could be in store down the road.
"We want it to be a more attractive park to use," said park planner Anne Rivoire.
Planners cited a number of areas the district could improve at Shadow Cliffs, which comprises 266 acres. A large priority could be focused on protecting the natural resources and ecosystem, which includes a number of native plant and animal species.
Last summer, the boat launch was closed earlier than normal due to the low lake level after a deal with an area cement plant to pump water into the body of water fell through. Zone 7 Water Agency has said it can't commit to replenishing the lake's supply since the state is in a drought and still dealing with issues in the Delta region. Water quality is also a priority, Rivoire, with the vast number of Canada geese that call Shadow Cliffs home.
While parking is adequate at most times during the year, park district officials acknowledged that on summer days and particularly holidays such as July 4, traffic can back up all along Stanley Boulevard with people trying to find parking spots. Another issue that needs attention, park officials said, are the staff buildings. Lifeguards are currently cramped in a one-room building.
Rivoire said an expansion to the waterslides, which was abandoned in 2007, is one particular area the district needs to put a special focus on. The partially-built structures seen off of Stanley Boulevard will be torn down, Rivoire said, but it's not clear when, how and at whose expense.
Glenn Kierstead, owner of the Rapids Waterslides, said he was sorry the expansion didn't occur. Once estimated at $6 million, the project doubled in cost over time and Kierstead said it would have been impossible to obtain funding from investors.
The City Council granted Kierstead a conditional use permit for the expansion in 2004, which was to include four additional slides to the existing four, a children's wading pool, larger swimming pools, a lazy river and a wave pool, after a series of heated debates. Mayor Tom Pico cast the tie-breaking vote in favor and the approval was structured so that it could not be referended. Opponents, many of whom were part of citizens' group Friends of Shadow Cliffs, cited increased traffic, particularly during the summer months when Kierstead estimated as many as 2,000 patrons a day would visit the slides, and noise for neighborhoods to the south from those using the four-story high slides much of the day and into the early evening hours. At the time, the project was also backed by the East Bay Regional Park District, which saw the waterpark as a revenue generator.
At the scoping meeting last week, Kierstead said he'd like to add some features to the waterslides that would cater to very young children and older adults--populations that often get left out of the fun at the slides.
"I would like to add a spray zone for older people to enjoy," Kierstead said, adding that he's also looking into incorporating shade structures this summer season.
For younger children who don't meet the 42-inch height requirement to ride the waterslides, a children's pool could be installed, he said.
"We believe we have the capital and partnerships to do it," he said.
The cost would be between $450,000 and $650,000, Kierstead estimated, adding that he would need a longer-term lease agreement to make it work. Currently, California Splash operates on a yearly lease with East Bay Parks. As he wrapped up his comments, Kierstead said he wanted to work with Friends of Shadow Cliffs on those plans.
Members of the Friends of Shadow Cliffs group, who were also in attendance at the scoping meeting, had mostly positive things to say about their experiences at the park.
Their suggestions included expanding trails so they could eventually connect with other regional trails like Iron Horse and Del Valle, adding sign markers and benches along pathways and the addition of a staging area. An event pavilion could be the perfect gathering place for families celebrating a birthday or for businesses hosting a company picnic. An interpretive center was mentioned by a handful of speakers, who said it could educate children about the environment and be the site for school-sponsored camps. An off-leash dog park would be an asset at Shadow Cliffs because there is only one dog park in the city, one resident said. It could include an agility course, a dog wash station, cafe and concession stand and swimming hole.
Dolores Bengtson, a former Pleasanton parks director, said the key is finding activities that can be employed year-round. Currently, summer is the peak period when crowds flock to the park, but the interpretive center and pavilion would spread park use out to different areas.
East Bay Regional Park District acquired the land which would become Shadow Cliffs in 1968 and started the first land use process in 1980. The land use plan was updated in the 1990s and this will be the second modification. A draft of the updated plan is expected to be released late this summer for public review. A second meeting to gain public input will be held in September and the park district board could vote on the plan as soon as December or by early 2010, Rivoire said.