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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

Grand Opening of New Education Center - April 16, 2016

Cooley Landing Project

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

News Release

The City of East Palo Alto, together with the EPA, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, and other partners, are celebrating the grand opening of the new Education Center on the nine-acre Cooley Landing nature park.

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.

Aerial view of Cooley Landing
Photo by Jitze Couperus, Pilot Saul Chaiken
In 2012, the California Statewide Parks Program announced a $5 million grant to the project to create a new Education Center.

"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

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."

East Palo Alto previously had 16 acres of parkland (0.5 acres/1000 persons). Once Cooley Landing opened to the public, it increased 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's 2012 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."

Funders such as the State of California Parks and Recreation Department, 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

Marie McKenzie (mmckenzie@cityofepa.org)
Administrative Services Director
East Palo Alto City Hall 2nd Fl.
2415 University Avenue
East Palo Alto, CA 94303
(650) 853-3199
www.cityofepa.org Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

Funding Partners

Funder Contribution
California Department of Parks and Recreation Education Center and other park infrastructure
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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