Feeding the waterfowl at the Duck Pond in San Lorenzo or taking the kids to ride the ponies at Kennedy Park in Hayward could become memories of a bygone era as the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District scrutinizes operations in beloved but well-worn parks.
"Many of our facilities are older," said John Gouveia, general manager of HARD, which maintains more than 100 facilities in Hayward, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and San Leandro -- parks, community and senior centers, golf courses, an arts center and sports fields. Some are more than 50 years old, with Kennedy Park dating back at least to the 1940s.
On Monday, the HARD board will begin to look at whether to make changes at the Duck Pond, or whether to fill it in altogether. Architects from RRM Design Group have been working with the district for several months on a master plan for the park's future.
And the board at its Aug. 27 meeting hired the same architects to draw up a master plan for Kennedy Park, where the cost of maintaining the pony ride has been exceeding revenue for some time. The district also will scrutinize other Kennedy amenities, including a petting zoo, carousel, train ride and snack bar.
San Lorenzo Community Park, a 31-acre flat park near the shoreline, has playing fields, a dog park, picnic areas and a community building. But the approximately 50-year-old park is so closely associated with its three-acre
The pond attracts a lot of geese and ducks and occasional migratory waterfowl. "That park has far more ducks and geese than the pond can really support," said Larry Lepore, parks supervisor.
The result: Bird droppings quickly cover the park's grounds, including its soccer fields. HARD workers struggle to keep sidewalks clean, especially the one surrounding the pond, Lepore said. "It's a mess. We have to wash it daily to every other day," he said.
Kennedy Park on Hesperian Boulevard is the district's most popular park. "Kennedy Park is one of our main destination parks. And it's our only park that has concessions," Lepore said. The 13.3-acre park is filled almost every summer weekend with large groups picnicking and youngsters riding the rides.
The pony ride, which has been a mainstay since at least the '40s, was shut down last year, and the district had not added ponies for quite some time. "We didn't want to make an investment in purchasing new ponies until we completed the master plan," said Karl Zabel, HARD operations and development supervisor.
Two of the three ponies still at the park were deemed too frail to work, Zabel said. "The ponies are probably over 25 years old," he said.
The three ponies, Poncho, Marty and Terry, remain at Kennedy, tended by a caretaker and spending their time in a corral and adjoining barn, with the district paying about $25,000 annually for their upkeep. HARD has been trying to find a new home for the animals, and a couple of people have expressed interest, Zabel said. "It's a challenge trying to find someone who wants to take on older ponies."
District officials and RRM architects have held two meetings with San Lorenzo residents about the Duck Pond. Scenarios being considered include reducing the size of the pond or filling it in. That has some in San Lorenzo upset, including longtime resident Louis Orselli.
"The pond is the heart of that park," he said. "After 40 years of not adequately maintaining the pond, now the solution is to fill it in? I think that's unacceptable."
Gouveia stressed that nothing has been decided. The district is looking at several possibilities, including whether planting certain types of trees would discourage the birds, or if reducing the size of the pond would help.
"We want to redesign the park, somehow make it less attractive to these birds," Gouveia said.
On Monday, the HARD board of directors will look at the concepts for the future look of the park. "It's a work session, so there will not be a vote on the master plan. But the board will likely try to come to a consensus on what concept they prefer," Gouveia said. Residents are welcome to voice their opinions at the meeting, he said.
The board will see a refined Duck Pond plan possibly in October or November, and then district employees will draw up a timetable.
"Any improvements will be several years in the making," Gouveia said.
Duck Pond visitors will see one upgrade by next summer: One of the restrooms will be replaced. That work is being funded with a $220,000 Community Development Block Grant, Gouveia said.
Gouveia said the consultants will be at Kennedy later this month, talking with park visitors about what they would like to see there. The district also is beginning to update its master plan for Fairmont Terrace Park, a small park in the hills near San Leandro.
But it has been the fate of the Duck Pond that has generated the most interest so far. Lifelong San Lorenzo resident Michelle Clowser is among those in favor of keeping the pond.
"We need to find a way to clean up the pond better, but most San Lorenzans want the pond," she said. "The park is called the Duck Pond, after all."
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.
What: Board of directors work session to discuss master plan for San Lorenzo Community Park
When: 5:30 p.m. Monday
Where: 1099 E. St., Hayward