The Hanford City Council decided at its March 7 meeting to pursue listing the undeveloped portion of Hidden Valley Park as surplus. If the Planning Commission votes to put this parcel on the surplus list the city council will be able to sell the property.
The 18 acres will be zoned low-density residential if the Draft General Plan Update is approved. The plan will be in front of the Hanford Planning Commission on March 14, and, if approved, will go to the city council for a public hearing. The city council hearing on the General Plan Update will most likely happen sometime in April.
Although Hanford residents have strongly opposed the selling of Hidden Valley Park, their city councils have put the issue on its agenda approximately 10 times in the last 15 years. During public comment at the March 7 meeting, several residents once again voiced their opposition.
Mickey Stoddard, a member of the Hanford Parks and Recreation Committee, complained that the citizens of Hanford are continually forced to show up and tell the council not to sell the park. “The General Plan suggests a path to the future. The path to the future should have parks,” he said.
Nathan Odom, Hanford resident, said that there is obviously public consensus to keep the 18 acres as open space. “There is nothing more precious to bring people together from diverse backgrounds than a park.” Odom suggested that if the city did not have the money to finish the park then it should turn the parcel into a community garden.
Mike Quinn, another Hanford resident, questioned if the city needs to sell this property to fund other projects, “then where is the money going to come from to replace this open land?”
Quinn is referring to a report that indicated Hanford has 155 acres of community parks. That would mean that there are only 2.2 acres of open space of parkland per 1,000 people. But in reality the number of acres per 1000 residents could be significantly less. Stoddard revealed in a previous meeting that Freedom (16.66 acres), Centennial (14.11 acres) and Hidden Valley Park (17.96 acres) are the only actual open spaces where Hanford residents do not have to be a member of a sports team or pay a fee to enjoy.
The National Recreation and Park Association recommend 6.25 acres per 1000 residents. This recommendation was cited by the Hanford Parks and Recreation and Open Space Master Plan.
Councilmembers Justin Mendes, Sue Sorenson, Francisco Ramirez and Martin Devin were in favor of listing the second half of Hidden Valley Park as surplus. Councilmember David Ayers was the only one opposed.
Mendes said that because People’s Ditch runs next to Hidden Valley Park that the city should take advantage of the hydrology of the area to the advantage of Hanford. Whereas People’s Ditch water belongs to the Boswell family, and not to the residents of Hanford, the water that collects in Mussel Slough that runs through the middle of the park does belong to the residents. Mussel Slough replenishes the groundwater supply and has been a treasured hydrology resource to Hanford’s city leaders.
Ramirez was in favor of selling the parcel and building a Recreation Center.
Sorenson said that she spends a lot of time in Hanford’s parks and that she doesn’t think it in a good location. She is also concerned with Hanford’s water supply and doesn’t believe the city has enough water to develop the 18 acres. Hanford residents have countered in previous meetings that if the city council thinks there is enough water for a 100 new homes then there is enough to develop the rest of Hidden Valley Park.
Devin didn’t seem completely convinced that the property should be listed as surplus, and suggested that part be saved for a park and part be residential. He also repeated a disputed fact that the undeveloped parcel was never intended to be a park.
The land was bought in 1967 with taxpayer money to be used as a park.
According to a 1971 Hanford Sentinel article, the city leaders intended the park to be a place where Boy Scouts could camp and families could picnic.
The article stated, “Councilmen agreed the parks should be primarily a wilderness area, rather than a manicured site for organized sports and large organizations. It will be meant to facilitate families and small groups in a secluded setting. The park would include a hilly area in front, with numerous trees and trails with horseback riding and bicycles meandering to the rear portion. The middle part would consist of lakes or a system of lagoons connected by bridges and surrounded by weeping willows. Picnic spaces would surround the small lakes. The rear of the park would contain a large play area and a heavily forested area for archery and camping.”
Not only was the original intent to develop all 38 acres over 10 years, but the goal was actually to expand Hidden Valley Park.
“The consultants raised the possibility of the city purchasing adjacent land to the northeast and southwest for an intensive recreation area featuring tennis, badminton, volleyball and basketball on one parcel and a golf course on the other,” the Hanford Sentinel elaborated in 1971.
The undeveloped parcel has been appraised at $1.8 million, and would most likely be sold to a developer for residential use.
Three other historic Hanford properties were discussed during the city council meeting as possible assets to be sold: the Bastille, the Court House and Rabobank. The councilmembers decided not to sell the Bastille or Court House, and put off to a future meeting to decide the fate of the Rabobank building.