Palo Alto: Council approves $6-per-car fee, restrictions at newly renamed Foothills Nature Preserve

PALO ALTO — A new $6 entrance fee and new capacity restrictions will be put in place at Foothills Park as the city council seeks to deal with the influx of visitors after residency requirements were dropped in November.

The city council unanimously voted Monday to take emergency measure and implement the new fee, impose new capacity restrictions and rename the 1,400-acre park the Foothills Nature Preserve.

The move comes as a reaction to the popularity of the preserve, which over the past several months has transformed from the bucolic escape of those with a Palo Alto address into a recreation destination for the Bay Area.

Along with the $6 car fee, the council approved the Parks and Recreation Commission’s plan to offer annual passes for $65 to non-residents and $50 for residents and city employees.

After comments from the public about the various exceptions and discounts provided for unique members of the community, council members said they will waive the entrance fee for veterans, low-income visitors and students.

The council also agreed to give a blanket 25% discount for all students, disabled individuals, active military, veterans and students to get an annual pass. Low-income visitors will receive a 25% to 50% discount depending on their income.

The council also imposed a new visitor cap for the park and rangers will only let in about 650 visitors at a time, the equivalent of about 250 vehicles. The council decided not to include people displaying a handicap parking permit in the overall visitor count after Palo Alto resident Jill Onan, who said she is disabled, asked the council to do so.

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“I appreciated the Parks and Recreation Commission’s recommendation, but discounts don’t go far enough,” Onan said of the original plan, which would have charged people with disabilities a discounted fee. “The model we should adopt is lifetime entrance. There are already many challenged in accessing the outdoors. Putting fees or requirements makes it worse.”

Onan said people with disabilities need to be able to get outdoors when they are able to.

“I walk, but I ask with pain,” Onan said. “On the day I feel well enough, I can’t hope they’ll let me in, I want to know that I can get in.”

Despite voicing her reservations about the ordinance council member’s passed Monday, councilwoman Alison Cormack voted in favor of the new restrictions.

“I remain very concerned about the fee,” Cormack said. “I’m not happy with it, I don’t think it’s the way to approach this. I still think it’s possible that we should consider this just for weekends. I am not happy with a fee to deter attendance, I’ll say that again.”

Councilwoman Lydia Kou voiced her concerns about preserving the park as new visitors flood into it. Unlike county parks, Kou said, the city doesn’t have a parcel tax to pay for improvements at the preserve. She had been weary in the past of opening the park to non-residents before the ACLU, the NAACP and 10 others sued the city to force the park open in December.

Vice Mayor Pat Burt …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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