As Belmont formulates a Master Plan to improve and set the vision for its parks and open spaces, community feedback is being sought on the city’s extensive parks and trail system.
The Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan, or PROS, will set the framework for planning, maintaining, developing and rehabilitating the city’s parks and open space system for 15 years.
“Some of our parks are in need of some improvement and some upgrades to make them more accessible, to make them more welcoming, and we have some opportunities to be very creative about how we move forward,” Brigitte Shearer, Belmont Parks and Recreation director, said.
The Parks and Recreation Department started the process in October 2020 and is currently seeking recommendations and prioritization input from the community. The city recently launched a communitywide online survey that asks residents for information on their uses of parks and trails. Belmont last conducted a Parks and Open Space Master Plan in 1992. Outreach has focused on people’s key issues with parks, needs and how to improve experiences. Outreach includes a project website, developing an advisory committee to provide community advice and identifying community influencers for outreach. Neighborhood meetings, workshops, community pop-up events and City Council presentations will take place. The city is currently conducting usage studies of its parks and comparing options to cities like Foster City, Burlingame and San Carlos. Belmont will then prioritize those concerns in its adoption of a plan at the end of 2021.
“I do want to make sure at the end of this we don’t hear anybody say, hey, I had no idea this was going on. We are trying to use all the channels we normally do,” Shearer said.
Shearer said the city has also distributed the survey information online on Nextdoor and is looking at different nononline options, but many traditional information locations are not available during the pandemic.
“Right now, because a lot of our programs are not happening in their traditional way, we are missing out on that face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball outreach. We hope to be able to do that in the upcoming weeks and months,” Shearer said.
Commissioner Brian Kulich asked that the survey be translated into Spanish to ensure it was more easily available for harder-to-reach communities.
Commissioner Caroline Pyrz agreed and also asked for physical copies to be made available for people not online.
“I think the idea of having it in other languages would be really helpful,” Pyrz said.
Commissioner Gina Latimerlo asked that renters also be considered in outreach, as homeowners are often the ones targeted in surveys. Her experience as a renter underlined the importance of including everyone in the survey process.
“I think renters often get pushed to the side. When we were renters in Belmont 20 years ago, we were using the open spaces even more,” Latimerlo said.
Kristin Mercer, a resident and former planning commissioner, stressed the importance of protecting open spaces like trails and recognizing conservation must come first, not human development and that the vision is permanently ingrained in planning decisions. Another resident expressed concern about the rash of mountain bikers from other cities congregating in Belmont to use Water Dog Lake Park and damaging the trails.
The city currently has around 250 survey responses and is hoping for more in the coming weeks. Gates + Associates have an agreement with the city to help produce a master plan.