Hidden Valley Park and Hanford planning issues
Hanford only has 2.2 acres of open space of parkland per 1,000 people. But that number may be exaggerated as city staff included open spaces that are fenced off to the public. Mickey Stoddard, a parks and Recreation Commissioner, detailed 130 acres of open spaces that were locked up during a planning commission meeting. The National Recreation and Park Association recommends 6.25 acres per 1000 residents.
When Hanford purchased Hidden Valley Park in the 1960’s the plan was to create a 38 acre wilderness park with equestrian and bicycle paths, and lakes all connected with bridges and trails.
Although Hanford residents have strongly opposed selling Hidden Valley Park, their city councils have put the issue on the agenda approximately ten times in the last 15 years. Mark Pratter, member of Friends of Hidden Valley Park gathered 2,769 signatures of Hanford residents who don’t want the city to sell the undeveloped portion of Hidden Valley Park.
“What is it they don’t understand?” said Pratter.
The following is an update on Hidden Valley Park by Mark Pratter.
The issue of expanding Hidden Valley Park to the 18 acres west of the existing park at 11th and Cortner is a microcosm of political and planning problems in Hanford.
Currently, despite years of public efforts to preserve the 18 acres for an expanded park, the city council has declared the land surplus, rezoned it to allow for residential development and is on track to sell all or most of it for new housing. The city will receive in excess of $1 million for the land. And this at a time when the city has multimillions of unspent park impact fees.
The Hidden Valley Park expansion issue is symptomatic of another Hanford problem.
The city is on a growth merry-go-round and doesn’t know how and probably doesn’t want to get off. Although some members of the council dispute this point, voters who have been active on this issue contend that it is the community’s clear preference is to retain the land for future park space. Indeed more than 3,000 signatures were gathered in the summer of 2017 indicating a preference for park space.
Growth is necessary but has to be sustainable. This means that It has to occur in such a way that it does not unduly damage a community, that it is consistent with its character and that it adds something to quality of life.
In short, there has to be growth with conservation. A perfect example of unsustainable growth is the new Burger King on 11th and Fargo whose configuration adds to air pollution and traffic.
Much of the growth pattern in Hanford the last 20 years has benefitted a privileged few instead of the many. Property has been put ahead of community preference. Council members were elected to represent and protect the interests of the average person not just the well-heeled.
One example of the council’s blindness is the lack of adequate park space for city residents. Hanford residents are underserved in park space despite city staff’s contention that this is not true.
Just drive around Hanford and look for the open space. Is it at 12th and Lacey? Is it downtown? Is it in South or East Hanford? Yes there are parks in the south and on the east side but what is the overall look of these areas? Obviously this is why Hidden Valley Park and the 18 acres on the North Side are so precious.
The sense one gets driving around Hanford is of continuous housing, fast food joints, gas stations, and strip centers. Where is the open space, where are views, where is the room to see the horizon, where are the water features?
Environmental impact statements are supposed to assess the impacts of individual projects on the city but clearly the sum total of these projects is a negative result.
What’s needed is an environmental impact statement on the entire city, not the state-mandated General Plan Update which doesn’t show the deterioration in the quality of life. Mercenary consultants and city management don’t live here. How much they care should be questioned.
Hanford’s council needs a major change in its thinking. And this is not just limited to growth strategies.
A few well-entrenched citizens erect barriers to change, fight open space ballot measures and go for growth at all costs.
This is why the Hanford City Council needs to be shaken to its core, to wake up, feel and understand what the public is saying and show that it is truly responsible and responsive to the citizenry. A place to start is to save the 18 acres west of Hidden Valley Park for park expansion.
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