Like many Bay Area cities, San Mateo is planning to tear up a small community park in the name of redevelopment.
But unlike urban areas where grass and trees are replaced with sidewalks and buildings, Harborview Park is going to turn into a more modern park with an outdoor education area for students, better wetland habitats for local wildlife and improved bicycle and pedestrian trails along San Francisco Bay.
After the successful redevelopment of Ryder Park to the south, Harborview is the second phase in the Shoreline Parks development project. The goal is to create one unified park system running the length of San Mateo’s bayfront, while improving the wetlands for animals and filtering storm runoff before it is pumped to the Bay.
"The city has become fairly urban, and this is a place you can go and be alone with nature," said former Councilwoman Sue Lempert, who spearheaded the project after she joined the Council in 1993. "It’s a nice respite for everyone."
On Thursday, Parks and Recreation staff held a pre-bid meeting in the park for contractors interested in helping the city redo the entire park, leaving only a baseball backstop and some dirt from the current park.
In addition to new landscaping and bathrooms, the project is going to improve the drainage ditch that flows between the park and the levy separating the neighborhood and the Bay to the east. The ditch — fed by the Bay’s tides — collects runoff and naturally filters it before it returns to the Bay.
"Widening the channel is for water treatment, but it will also create some new habitat area," said Patrick Miller, a landscaping consultant working for the city. "If we build it, egrets will come."
Along with the drainage creek, later phases of the project — which will be put into motion as funding becomes available — will align the existing pedestrian path with Ryder Park’s path, which includes gravel walkways for pedestrians, flat pavement for cyclists, waste containers and shrubbery.
That path — with California poppies and the occasional squirrel — is already a popular recreation spot, frequented by visitors such as 10-year San Mateo resident Melinda Adams and her two children.
"I love the improvements; it’s a better looking path," she said. "It’s a great way to see the entire Bay trail."
Bids on the $2.3 million project are due April 8, and project manager Ron Mason said work should start in mid-May. He said the project is scheduled to take approximately 140 days to complete.