15 Sep 2014
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The sinking & shrinking of our parks

The sinking & shrinking of our parks
The sinking & shrinking of our flat parks

    As an example of new ideas, but inappropriate action, I recall my first day at a then new White Hill School. We found ourselves in a vast classroom space designed to hold all 8th graders, as an experiment in team teaching. The teachers were not prepared to carry out this mandate, so this grand room was quickly and permanently divided into 4 smaller spaces for traditional, manageable class size. This was happening as new math was also being taught as the way of the future.
    Currently there is a plan to resolve flood plain problems by sinking and shrinking available flat playing fields, parks and County Open Spaces. Although this practice of detention basins may be common elsewhere, there has been nothing like this in Marin. After all, this is the beautiful place it is now because of forward thinking preservationists. We value our open spaces, parklands, our open-flowing creeks. Detention basins alter this course of history, the very topography and reduce available level spaces throughout the upper Ross Valley.
    These are the fields we played on, our children played on, but not the fields your children or grandchildren will play on. The field at White Hill School will have to be closed for construction, closed when flooded, closed to be cleaned up afterward. Memorial Park will have to make choices between overlapping ballfields, fewer tennis courts, elimination of community built treasures. We will give over level portions of our Loma Alta Open Space to bulldoze earthen dams.
    If I had children headed for White Hill School in the future, I would urge the trustees to stop this before drilling begins. If you appreciate the many open spaces we have bought, I would urge your supervisor to keep them free of dams. If you have children or grandchildren that you bring to "Dinosaur Park", or you sit with your parents in the Elder's Garden or watch ball games, you will surely want a say in the future of Memorial Park.

    Almost a half million dollars is in this year's budget for this sinking and shrinking of Memorial Park.
This shifts the entire burden of those who flood every 26 years into other neighborhoods, in places dedicated to recreation and play. But it moves constantly toward this reality, despite the forward thinking, but inappropriateness of this action.

Suggestions for more efficient flood mitigation efforts, none of these under consideration:

1. Safety first: Move the fire depts. & police depts. of any town where they also flood.

In San Anselmo, when the flood horn sounds, the 1st concern of our fire & police is not public safety because they have to remove their vehicles & headquarters. This should be priority #1.

2. Assess all structures in the flood zone, how many flood at what levels.

Provide & install flood gates on those that this simple, inexpensive solution works on. Provide permit help, low interest loans for those willing to help themselves, by raising structures, or otherwise flood proofing. This has those with flood problems working toward their own solution, with support from Town staff & flood fee and local contractors.

3. In conjunction with all towns in the watershed, negotiate away this threat of lawsuits over bridge replacements, removal or raising of creek concrete, structures & other blockages. The detention basins are said to be essential because of this fear of lawsuits. Negotiate. We're all in this together. The flood either stays in the stream or it enters the downstream towns on the streets. Either way, they get it, so work out the flows in the creek.

4. Leave the creek to run free. Use it for a vision of a creekside downtown. Work towards this improved scenic feature by working with landlords, or properties for sale. Again, low interest loans, or purchasing properties to remove from flood plain, improve & sell. This would use flood fee temporarily, passing it on over the years as properties become available.

5. Detention basins are neighborhood and environmental disasters. Nobody wants these. They are massive, change the topography of the entire upper Ross Valley. It takes away valuable flat areas of play, some permanently, all when flooded, unknown while being cleaned-up. If we manage to save Memorial Park from this fate, they want them in other various neighborhoods, (Brooksides, Manor & Deer Park). This will mean more, smaller basins. I would not want to inflict this on anyone.

That's the biggest problem with DB's, that flood victims are shifting the burden into other neighborhoods, failing to take responsibility themselves. For Memorial Park, this also pits tennis against full size ballfields, or playground vs. SABA, or Elder's Garden vs. SABA.

This is about the worst thing a government can inflict on their community, divisive self interest.

It floods roughly every 26 years, but people continue to purchase properties in the flood zone, business find it worth the risk before the concept of detention basins. Detention basins fill up, they require extra safety personal, far removed from threatened areas. They are not appropriate in spaces bought with public funds raised for open space, they are inappropriate for all the places we, our children & children's children played and will play. They are not what anyone voted for when this was put to us and have no place in this most preserved, natural environment. This county has a long, successful legacy of preservation, environmental activism, and the defeat of monstrous impositions attempted on this land. When the creek was bulldozed to contain it in a concrete channel, it met with great resistance and was never completed. A few years later, it proved totally ineffective as floodwaters went over the top. (My brother has this on film from 1982)

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