Q: What changes are proposed for Leigh Creekside Park (LCP)?
A: Efforts are underway to turn this nature oasis into a paved, gated playground with large play structures.
Q: What kinds of play structures are proposed?
A: In the SW area of the park, the play equipment would include a concrete climbing structure weighing >52 tons, suspension bridge and hunting observation platform, doublewide spring rider depicting an upside down pioneer log wagon and an adobe wall with an anvil, cash register and rustic signs. A second play area (for tots) would be located between the central picnic table and Moraga Blvd.
Q: What else is planned?
A: Rubberized fall-zone mats would be installed under and around both play area structures. Poured-In-Place (PIP) rubber is proposed, usually made of shredded tires, would require excavation and extend 6’ beyond the play structures.
Q: Will the walkways change?
A: The existing natural looking decomposed granite pathways would be torn out and replaced with non-permeable concrete walkways, 4’-6’ wide.
Q: Aren’t there playgrounds down the street?
A: Yes… there are 2 playgrounds within walking distance, others nearby, and more in city plans.
Q: Are more playgrounds needed?
A: The City has not done a professional needs assessment. Empirical data shows that the fastest growing age group in Lafayette is 65+ years, which indicates a growing need for more parks like Leigh Creekside Park. It offers a natural setting to quietly relax, read a book, enjoy a picnic, play a game on the meadow lawn, bird watch, people watch and visit with neighbors. Described in City plans as a "passive neighborhood park," it's the only one of its kind in Lafayette and attracts a wide diversity of visitors of all ages and abilities, from every corner of the City.
Q: Is Leigh Creekside Park currently accessible for people with physical challenges?
A: Yes, the existing walkways are ADA compliant; people in wheelchairs often visit the park. The proposed development would make wheelchair entry/exit into the park more difficult because 1 entry would be eliminated and the 2 remaining entries would be gated.
Q: Why does development at Leigh Creekside Park break the founding covenant?
A: Leigh Creekside Park was born in a grassroots citywide effort in 1999, when City leaders appealed for donations to purchase the Leigh property to create a city park that would “preserve the land in its natural state.” Residents signed a preservation petition because they loved this half-acre with its canopy of trees, creek and wildlife; they donated over $35,000, and stated in public meetings that they wanted a quiet, natural park with picnic tables, benches, and no play structures. A covenant between the City and its residents was established and enshrined in a commemorative plaque to major donors: “Generations to come will appreciate your work to permanently preserve this land.” Mayor Erling Horn signed it and it carries the City’s seal.
Q: Why is this happening?
A: In 2013, some residents supported the idea of a “small, unobtrusive” play structure in LCP, but the idea escalated into a half million-dollar theme park.
Q: What do the neighbors want now?
A: Nine out of ten residents near the park and trails area want to keep the park natural, or “passive” as it’s described in City plans. Over 1,300 park visitors signed a petition to keep the park passive and "Let it Be". Most of those signatures were from ~500 homes in the neighborhood.
Q: If neighbors are opposed, why does the project continue to move forward?
A: The owner of a private business near the park has gone to great lengths to market the project. She runs a preschool and daycare business out of her home, a block and a half from the park. The City of Lafayette hired her brother as the design consultant for the project, on a no-bid contract. He’s a San Francisco building architect.
Q: How will this development impact the environment?
A: Minimally, two mature native trees would be cut down. Heavy equipment during construction, installation of rubber flooring, concrete walkways and heavy play equipment would compact the soil, cut into tree roots, impact drainage and air/water exchange. The development project would be concentrated in the SW corner of the park, in the upland bank area of Las Trampas Creek. This upland area and the creek’s lush green area comprise the riparian zone, a wildlife corridor that provides habitat for endangered and threatened species.
Q: What is a riparian zone?
A: A riparian zone includes the waterway (in this case, a creek), the banks, the green ribbon of vegetation along the creek, and the upland woods (upper bank) area.
Q: What do experts say?
A: Tree Experts
In preparation for the LCP Master Plan in 2000, Tree Service, Inc.'s certified arborist, Lew Edwards, stated, "As you know, no human activities should be encouraged under the tree canopy and this area kept as natural as possible.” [Tree Service Inc. 3-28-2000]
Regarding the proposed project, InsideOut Design, Inc.'s certified arborist and landscape architect, Pennell Phillips, reported, “Beyond the detrimental effects that excavation may place on the tree’s root systems, additional concerns exist regarding whether adequate oxygen exchange can take place if the top layer of soil is covered with the rubberized flooring material”. [InsideOut Design 11-4-2015]
More recently, consulting certified arborist and urban forester, Steve Batchelder, visited LCP and studied the proposed plan. He stated, "The proposed development plan is certain to create significant adverse impacts for Leigh Creekside Park’s existing trees, due primarily to soil compaction and root damage, during and after construction. The project has the potential to substantially degrade the quality of the environment, both short-term and long-term, in that the overall health and lifespan of existing trees will be compromised.
"It is our recommendation that this site not be developed as proposed. Instead, we recommend that energy be put into improving the trees’ rooting environment in order to extend the life of the trees and the natural ambiance of the park." [SBCA Tree Consulting report, May 4, 2017]
Mr. Batchelder also expressed concerns about paving , saying, "The design documents indicate that the rubberized flooring material will be made of pervious materials, and will be located under the canopy of Valley Oaks and Incense Cedars. Both pervious and impervious surfaces have similar negative impacts to tree roots because both require soil compaction when installed. Therefore, SBCA Tree Consulting advises against the installation of these surfaces." [SBCA Tree Consulting report, May 4, 2017]
B: Wildlife Expert
Dr. James Hale, a local wildlife biologist, warned about loss of wildlife habitat:
"In Contra Costa County, wildlife habitat is rapidly disappearing, particularly in suburban areas and urban areas and in our cities.
In Lafayette and Walnut Creek, the only available habitat that’s left for wildlife are these little ribbons of habitat, known as our creeks, rivers and tributaries. They are very important, particularly to me, as a wildlife biologist, because they are used for migration for a lot of our larger mesopredators, the mountain lion, coyotes, and the grey fox. They all use these creeks in these urban environments for their movements.
If it wasn’t for these creeks, these little ribbons of habitat environment, they would not be able to get from one area to another, to forage and breed and allow for that genetic drift which keeps healthy populations viable."
[Wildlife Biologist, James Hale, Ph.D., 6/24/17, Interview – Lafayette Community Garden].
Q: Is the City doing a complete Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?
A: No, the City is only doing a “focused EIR” to evaluate noise and traffic.
Q: Isn’t a complete EIR required under CA state law?
A: Yes, when an issue is controversial and has met the “fair argument” standard, cities should do a complete EIR.
Q: What does “fair argument” mean?
A: It means that fact-based concerns from nearby residents (non-expert evidence) can trigger EIR study. In other words, if neighbors make reasonable arguments that there could be significant environmental impacts, such as safety, noise, traffic, parking, creek bank stability, aesthetic impacts that would substantially damage scenic resources like trees, vistas, etc., the City must study those issues in a complete EIR (Environmental Impact Report).
Q: What can I do to make a difference?
A: Go to "How to Help" at the top of the page.