The Mercury News

12/04/2016 - Page B06

By Kevin Kelly

kkelly@bayareanewsgroup.com

MENLO PARK

The city’s largest park is poised for some major changes. The city intends to develop a master plan for bedwell Bayfront Park that will plot out improvements for the next 25 years. Friends of bedwell Bayfront Park, a community group that formed in 2005 to fend off construction of a golf course at the park, wants bedwell maintained as a passive recreation area. It also is pushing for the return of a ranger to enforce a recent city ban on drones at parks and to crack down! on other illegal and dangerous activities. The group also would like bedwell’s trails improved and a docent brought in to lead tours through the wildlife refuge that borders it on three sides. Residents who live near the 160-acre park along the bay say they want to see all that too, plus some extra benches, a learning center, a rebuilt restroom and maintenance of the Great Spirit Path — a Native American-inspired rock sculpture designed by Menlo Park artist Susan Dunlap.

Meanwhile, members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics would like the city to exempt from the drone ban some types of radio-controlled model aircraft, particularly! gliders, which one member likened to kites with radio signal! s. The park hosts an annual kite day.

In October, the City Council authorized spending $200,000 from the 2016-17 capital improvement budget to develop the master plan.

Azalea Mitch, Menlo Park’s senior civil engineer, said the city is pursuing a master plan to "help identify approaches we should be following to make sure we don’t miss (funding) opportunities. ... The park has become very popular. It needs care and the funds are not there."

The city is seeking bids for the master plan work until Dec. 12. Assistant Community Services Director Derek Schweigart said if the city awards a contract this month, the master plan co! uld be in place by early 2018. It wouldn’t require an environmental review unless major changes are proposed.

Other possible changes mentioned in the bidding documents include park information kiosks; interpretive signage focusing on park history and the ongoing South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project; and wildlife viewing areas. As part of an expansion along Constitution Drive, Facebook will pay the city $1 million toward maintenance and park improvements at bedwell, which could be used to hire a docent.

"It’s a bayshore park and we’re next to the preserve, so we have a unique position in the type of park we have," Schweigart said. "There’s a goldmine of learning out there."