Episode 33

San Mateo Parks

June 11, 2020

Judy provides an overview of San Mateo parks and recreation programs that aren’t well known to residents.

Podcast Video:


I’m Judy Gordon, and this is San Mateo Focus.

This week’s sponsor is Dormitory 101, luxurious collegiate blankets your family will love and that’ll become a lifelong keepsake. Dormitory 101 was founded by a stay-at-home mom with guiding company principles of empowering women and product excellence. 

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Dormitory 101 provides customers with premium quality products while empowering other minority entrepreneurs, showing them they can do anything they set their minds to. Learn more by visiting Dormitory101.com and following them on Instagram and Facebook. June orders receive 10% off with the coupon code: ‘sanmateofocus.’ Now onto this week’s episode.

We’ve had some suggestions to talk about the parks and trails that are really pretty abundant here in San Mateo. This episode will give an overview of the parks system, with a little bit of history of the largest park, Central Park.  To stay up to date on the status of our parks heading into the summer of 2020, make sure that you regularly check into the City’s website and look at the Parks and Recreation FAQ. A link to the FAQ is on this episode’s web page at sanmateofocus.com. One of the strengths of San Mateo’s Parks system is in its diversity of amenities, along with the diversity of land where the parks are located. Verdant Central Park was once the grounds of two different prominent estate owners, while the lookout at Seal Point Park is built on a former landfill. Other offerings of the park system include the serene Japanese Garden in Central Park, and Laurelwood Park and the Sugarloaf Open Spaces area that includes hiking trails. For new parents and those with preschool children who like to stroll around neighborhoods and discover new park areas, our small neighborhood parks sometimes surprise even long-term residents. Indian Springs park really has a spring running through it and has a great view. The ‘hidden parks’ as local neighbors refer to them—East and West Hillsdale Parks—are the perfect size for small children. Amenities that are perhaps less well known are the community gardens at Beresford and Los Prados parks, and boating access to the Marina Lagoon from Parkside Aquatic Park. There are numerous public art installations at Central Park, Sealpoint, Gateway Park, and Landing Green, which is in Bay Meadows. The City also offers skate plazas at Shoreview and Beresford Parks, and bocce ball courts at Beresford.

There’s really no way to tell a background story of San Mateo without talking about one or more of the great estates that were there first. San Mateo’s Central Park was originally the site of the Charles Polhemus estate back in the 1860s. Polhemus was a director of the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad. He lived there in a 13 room Victorian mansion. William Kohl, a sea captain and founding partner of the Alaska Commercial Company purchased the property from Polhemus. Kohl oversaw extensive plantings and landscaping including a stone and wrought iron fence that still borders El Camino. In 1922, the city of San Mateo purchased the 16 acres for $80,000. Today, the Central Park boundaries are unchanged from the former Kohl estate with the exception of the narrow Ninth Avenue frontage added in 1926. The primary design of the paths, lawns, and flower beds remains along with many of the original pines, oaks, cedar, figs, redwoods, and the pony shed near the rose garden. Also surviving from Kohl’s days is the well-known and beloved large Italian-made cast-iron dog statue that stands along the path near the Ninth Avenue entrance. The Central Park Master Plan was approved in 2017 and planning has begun for the first phase of improvements which includes the children’s play area. In more normal years, thousands of people annually attend the three most popular events sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department in Central Park – the Summer Concert Series, Eggstravaganza, and the seasonal ice rink: San Mateo on Ice.

Children’s Playgrounds are an important element in every park. The lifecycle of a play area is approximately 20 to 25 years. The City has 21 playgrounds that are on a schedule, based on their age, to be upgraded and made compliant with current safety and accessibility standards. Playgrounds that are scheduled for upgrades in future years include East Hillsdale, Shoreview, Sunnybrae, Washington, and King.

There are a couple of other services worth mentioning brought to San Mateo residents from the Parks and Recreation department. The Senior ‘Get Around’ Program is a subsidized, on-demand taxi service that allows participants 60 and above to travel throughout San Mateo and neighboring cities, and to medical appointments at Kaiser Redwood City, and the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto for just $5.00 one way. It is very user friendly, and those interested can visit the website or call (650) 522-7490.

Thinking that you’d like a new tree in front of your house? Here’s the Deal: Residents can request to have a street tree planted in the public right of way for free. In return, it’s your responsibility to water the tree during its establishment as well as during the warmer months. The tree planting season is November through March.

Okay, that’s all the time we have for this episode. Have a great week. Thanks to Dormitory 101 for sponsoring this episode. Don’t forget to Subscribe to San Mateo Focus on your favorite Podcast app or iTunes. As always, if you’d like more information about Dormitory 101 or the topics in today’s episode, visit sanmateofocus.com.



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