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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

A Nature Park on the Bay in East Palo Alto

Photo of Cooley Landing by Janice Mitchell and Dennis Parker, East Palo Alto residents Photo of Cooley Landing by Janice Mitchell and Dennis Parker, East Palo Alto residents
Cooley Landing Project

Visit the City of East Palo Alto's website with factsheets, maps, photos, concept plans, presentations and newsletters.  Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

News Release

Project Groundbreaking

Grand Opening - July 2012

The City of East Palo Alto, together with the EPA, California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, and other partners are celebrating the cleanup and grand opening of the new nine-acre nature park.

Since the groundbreaking late last year, all cleanup has been completed and certified by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The eighty-year-old former toxic dump is now home to thriving native seeds and plantings. The native vegetation is complemented by trees, trails, benches, picnic areas with tables and recycle bins.

EPA, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, CalRecycle, and other partners helped design and fund the construction to seal off soil contaminated with mercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s), lead, and other toxic chemicals.  Partners such as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District contributed land and biological expertise to plant new native vegetation to enhance the wildlife habitat for the nearby endangered California Clapper Rail and Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. 

Earlier this year, the statewide Parks Program announced a $5 million grant to the project to renovate the historic boatworks building to create a new environmental education center, build a new outdoor classroom, construct outdoor interpretive displays, and create a community gathering plaza with bathrooms and utilities. The park will remain open to the public until the next phase of construction, which will likely be fall 2013.

"This community-based cleanup and redevelopment project will provide the residents of East Palo Alto with direct access to healthy, safe open space near the largest pristine wetland in San Francisco Bay. This coordinated investment will transform an empty, toxic dump into a precious natural resource, serving families as well as the City’s economic development goals."
— Jane Diamond, EPA's former Superfund Division Director for the Pacific Southwest

Aerial view of Cooley Landing
Photo by Jitze Couperus, Pilot Saul Chaiken

East Palo Alto now has 16 acres of parkland (0.5 acres/1000 persons).  Once Cooley Landing opens to the public, it will increase that by 72% toward the State of California’s goal of 3 acres/1000 persons.  The new park provides outdoor recreation opportunities to promote healthy lifestyles and environmental and historic education opportunities, especially for youth.  

East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero said, “This project is so important because we’ll actually have a place right here in our backyards where our kids can connect to nature. Ultimately, if we want to save our planet, they need to have that connection.”

EPA in the Community

EPA staff Sherry Nikzat, Debbie Schechter, and Lily Lee have all worked directly in East Palo Alto on this project over the past decade through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) program that allows Federal employees to be detailed to other government agencies, non-profits, or other partners. Most recently, the Packard Foundation paid for Lily Lee to manage this project full time for the City for two years.  

“The strong community leadership and passion for Cooley Landing has inspired me and many other partners to do our parts to make East Palo Alto’s vision a reality,” said Lily. “We are proud to be a long-time partner of the City of East Palo Alto since 1995. Parcel by parcel, East Palo Alto is cleaning up its contaminated sites and revitalizing its neighborhoods, creating improved habitat, open space, jobs, and services for its multicultural residents.”

Funders such as the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, EPA/California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Cal Recycle, California Coastal Conservancy/San Francisco Bay Trail Project, Forest and Lands Stewardship Council, and many others have also contributed to a community planning process, permitting, design, and – now finally — cleanup.

The new Cooley Landing Park will support infill economic development and jobs creation in the nearby Ravenswood Business District, a former industrial area.  The District’s property owner's association supports this project because it will attract future developers as an amenity for new employees and residents.  It beautifies the neighborhood and shows the City’s capacity to transform this District, as it already has transformed other parts of town.  It will create local jobs, reducing the need for commuting; this project will reuse existing brownfields, thus sparing pristine greenfields. 

Contact Information

Mr. Sharon Jones (sjones@cityofepa.org)
Deputy Director Community Development
City of East Palo Alto
1960 Tate Street
East Palo Alto, CA 94303
Cooley Landing Website  Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

Funding Partners

Funder Contribution
David and Lucile Packard Foundation Land, community engagement, project management
EPA Recovery Act Funds through a Brownfields Revolving Loan Program to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control Cleanup
EPA Brownfields cleanup and assessment grants and in-kind technical assistance
CalRecycle Cleanup
California Coastal Conservancy through the San Francisco Bay Trail Project Trails
US National Parks Service in-kind facilitation services
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) land, CEQA, and technical assistance
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Wetland restoration and environmental education
Hewlett Foundation Community engagement, fundraising, and planning
Pacific Lands and Forest Stewardship Council Park infrastructure
Evelyn Mohrhardt Tilden Fund, managed by the San Francisco Foundation Endangered species conservation
Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, City of Menlo Park, Menlo Park Fire Protection District, individual donors, etc. Fee waivers and community engagement
Youth United for Community Action, Jane Leech Memorial Fund Advisory Committee, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Ravenswood City School District, MROSD, Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge, San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society, Acterra, Save the Bay, Collective Roots, Canopy:  Trees for Palo Alto, Job Train, Sequoia Union High School District, Ravenswood Shores Business District LLC, East Palo Alto Music and Mural Arts, East Palo Alto Youth Court, One East Palo Alto, San Mateo County, and many more  In-kind outreach, technical assistance, volunteer coordination, environmental education

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