Despite intentions to remove fencing and reopen the Mission Peak Stanford Staging area entrance today, the Park District’s General Manager announced he is extending the closure through May 31 after receiving a strongly worded letter to keep it closed by the City of Fremont.
Mission Peak will remain open and accessible from the Ohlone College entrance, but the impact of Fremont’s actions clearly did not sit well with the Park District Board of Directors and General Manager.
“The Park District received a letter from the City of Fremont on Friday, May 1, 2020, mandating continued closure and threatening to fence off the access road if the Stanford staging area was reopened,” said Robert Doyle, General Manager, in a report to the Park District’s Board of Directors held earlier today.
Current state and local “Stay-at-Home” orders allow for “outdoor recreation activities” as an “essential activity.” Additionally, local health agencies have specifically asked the Park District to keep parks open as much as possible.
The Park District is doing its best to keep as many parks open as possible and balance the public’s need for parks, public safety, and staff safety.
“It’s unfortunate that Fremont has taken this tact,” said Ayn Wieskamp, Park District Director whose Ward includes Mission Peak. “I’ll agree to this extended closure only because I don’t want to cause a public confrontation that could harm our park,” she added.
The Park District has leased the Mission Peak Stanford Staging Area from the City of Fremont and operated it since 1978.
“The Park District strongly disagrees with the City of Fremont’s efforts to limit access to our regional parks, especially now when the public needs them more than ever for fresh air, exercise, and stress relief,” said Doyle. “Mission Peak is a valuable regional park receiving visitors from all over this region, and it is paid for by funds generated from greater East Bay taxpayers, not only Fremont residents.”
Fremont’s letter asserted that the Park District had not done enough to control the park visitors' social distancing as required by County Health Departments. But Doyle rejected that premise saying, “most park visitors are following social distancing guidelines, but Fremont is punishing “many because of the few” hikers who aren’t social distancing.” The Park District has worked very hard and invested many resources to provide public education on social distancing through messaging on broadcast television and radio, onsite education by District staff and officers to hikers about social distancing.
Though the Police Chief’s letter specifically calls out “the lack of social distancing” as the reason for the strict closure of the Stanford Avenue entrance to Mission Peak, the City of Fremont website, http://fremont.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1762, acknowledges that it cannot ensure social distancing requirements…at their own parks.
“We are closing this popular entrance to Mission Peak exclusively because of the City of Fremont,” said Ellen Corbett, President of the EBRPD Board. “We expect Fremont to police this closure.”
The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park system in the nation, comprising 73 parks, 55 miles of shoreline, and over 1,300 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and environmental education. The Park District receives more than 25 million visits annually throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor