Neighbors question park's lack of amenities | May 24, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 24, 2013

Neighbors question park's lack of amenities

Woodthrush Park is up for review in September

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

When Alan Mode received his copy of the Summer 2013 Activities Guide, he noted the list of Pleasanton parks and their amenities.

"Forty-three parks are a tribute to the city's planning, but there is one park which stands out," he said, "not because of its special facilities, but the fact that it has absolutely no amenities."

This is Woodthrush Park, which is a block away from his home on Gapwall Court.

"The three smallest parks (Civic, Delucchi and Lions Wayside) are one-fifth the size of Woodthrush, but they all have some amenities such as picnic tables and play areas. Woodthrush has nothing," Mode said. "At least at the minimum there should be a picnic table or two, so people could come and have coffee together."

City officials said the latest Parks and Recreation draft plan includes Woodthrush Park improvements, which are being fine-tuned.

Woodthrush, a 3.5-acre park, is surrounded on three sides by Woodthrush Road, Blackbird Drive and Skylark Way, which leads to Pleasanton Sports Park a block away.

Mature trees at Woodthrush shade much of the wide expanse of grass, which slopes toward Woodthrush Road. The park has benches at either end, a cement walkway, and drinking fountains at Blackbird Drive. The park was probably built in 1975 along with homes north of Blackbird.

City Landscape Architect Mike Fulford said he led a public hearing on the park in 2004 when the city proposed adding a small children's play area, picnics, barbecues and a basketball half-court.

"At the time the neighborhood sentiment, at least the few at the meeting, didn't want additional amenities," Fulford recalled. "In the end, all the city did was to replace the aging asphalt pathways with concrete."

The city has two kinds of park, neighborhood and community, Fulford explained. Community parks have restrooms and parking and are expected to draw from throughout the city. Neighborhood parks, such as Woodthrush, as intended for those in the immediate vicinity.

"Some neighbors who have been there their entire lives have that sense of ownership," Fulford said, and they felt adding amenities would draw more people. "They were concerned about outsiders. Everybody has different wants, different needs, we see it all the time. The city tries to balance all of that."

"It begs another question," he added. "Why when the park was first developed was it so abbreviated in the first place? These days we design lots of amenities from the very beginning."

Fulford also noted there is some truth to the point that the Sports Park with full amenities is right across the bridge off Skylark.

"The neighbors liked that it's a passive park," remembered retired Parks and Community Services Director Jim Wolfe. "They didn't want it to become an area where teams would come practice. We did concrete work and that was it."

The Parks and Recreation Commission has a priority setting session each year, followed by its recommendations to the City Council, which happened earlier this year.

"Woodthrush Neighborhood Park was assessed as part of the current Parks and Recreation Master Plan process, and the plan does have recommendations to improve the site," said Susan Andrade-Wax, director of Pleasanton Community Services Department. "Currently the plan is in the draft phase, however once it has been refined it will be presented at a joint workshop of the City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission. Staff believes that will occur most likely in September."

Before the workshop, the documents will be posted on the city website, easily accessible to the community, she said.

Alan Mode has already made his feelings known to Andrade-Wax.

"Pleasanton deserves better than to have a 'park' without any amenities, which is little more than a couple of vacant lots with grass," Mode said.