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Photo by Tom Grey

Palo Alto

| Renzel Wetlands | Baylands | Parks Master Plan |


Protecting Nesting Birds

The Emily Renzel Marsh in Palo Alto includes an artificial freshwater wetland that has been used to polish effluents from the water treatment plant for over thirty years. It also creates a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. In recent years, flow through the marsh has slowed to a stop as sediment and reeds have filled the pond. The City is now dredging and making repairs to the pond’s berms to stop leaks and prevent freshwater from entering and harming the nearby saltwater slough. Although we were promised that the vegetation would not be disturbed until after the nesting season, we observed equipment depositing soil on top of the reeds and causing great distress to nesting birds. We immediately jumped into action and again asked the City of Palo Alto to stop removing or covering reeds with dirt until the nesting season was over. The City agreed. At this time, the pond is drying out. Some work is still being done around the pond, with the supervision of a qualified biologist monitoring to keep nesting birds from harm. Six nests (Killdeer, Black Phoebe, and Marsh Wrens) were identified and are being protected. We plan to work with the City of Palo Alto to create refugia for birds and wildlife when work resumes this fall.


Palo Alto Baylands: Ongoing Planning and Engagement

Palo Alto Baylands by Kelsey Frey
Palo Alto Baylands by Kelsey Frey

In the past few years, SCVAS advocates and volunteers contributed to a large number of projects in the Palo Alto Baylands and areas east of Hwy 101. With the goals of minimizing harm to birds and their ecosystems, and of preserving and enhancing nature and bird habitat, we actively engaged in planning processes for the new golf course, Byxbee Park Master Plan, San Francisquito Creek flood control plans, Palo Alto Airport’s Wildlife Hazard Management Plan, Adobe Creek bridge, the Parks Master Plan, and even the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan update. Most of these plans are now complete and in the process of being implemented. Recently, the City has embarked on a new Baylands Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which aims to consider opportunities for protection, enhancement and recreation at the Emily Renzel Wetlands, Byxbee Park, and the newly acquired ITT Antenna Field, while also considering the needs of the Water Quality Control Plant, airport, and the impacts of sea level rise. Palo Alto residents are welcome to volunteer and join us for the public outreach process – please email if you are interested.



Integrating Nature into the Parks Master Plan

Photo by Shani Kleinhaus
Photo by Shani Kleinhaus

In 2016 we engaged as a stakeholder in the planning of the Palo Alto Parks, Trails, Natural Open Space and Recreation Master Plan. The master plan will provide clear and long-range (25-year) guidance and recommendations on how to meet the demands for future recreational, programming, environmental, and maintenance needs, as well as establish priorities for future park renovations and facility improvements.


During the planning phase, we engaged in outreach to Palo Alto residents and Audubon members, bringing the community together with the hopes of influencing city council to consider nature in the development of the plan’s principles, policies, programs. Our campaigning was successful and the plan now prioritizes nature along with the implementation of a resilient landscape framework.


The new plan’s principles and goals include: “Incorporate native species and habitat corridors, and create opportunities to learn about and interact with nature” and “Preserve and integrate nature, natural systems and ecological principles throughout Palo Alto.” Many of the policies and programs look to enhance connectivity between natural areas, open spaces, and creeks, creating habitat corridors for wildlife, birds and pollinators “by planting native oaks and other species that support pollinators or provide high habitat values.” Other policies promote the expansion and protection of habitat and natural areas in parks and open space.


We hope that implementation of this plan together with Palo Alto’s Urban Forest Master Plan will help birds thrive in the city. By becoming engaged in the planning process of our cities, we are able to influence a balance between human development and urban ecology.


Read our Comments on Palo Alto Parks Master Plan (8/1/16)

Read our Comments on the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Plan (6/5/17)

See the plan here.