Palo Alto To Rebuild Broken Nature Boardwalk, Carefully And Very Slowly

By John Ramos

PALO ALTO (KPIX) — The Lucy Evans Nature Center is perched along a broad salt marsh where the city of Palo Alto meets the bay. It is a place of quiet solitude amid the bustle of Silicon Valley. Many come here for a spiritual reset.

Anita Lewis is a frequent visitor. “You’ve gotta have a bit of sanity somewhere. And this is a good spot,” she says.

Boardwalk and Nature Center

Lucy Evans Nature Center and boardwalk in Palo Alto. (CBS)

While the visitor center — built in the 1960s — has seen better days, it is what’s out back that’s really showing its age.

An 850-foot-long boardwalk stretches out over the marsh all the way to the bay. Over the decades it has been well loved — too well, in fact. It’s now a broken and buckled mess.

Broken Boardwalk

Most of the boardwalk behind the Lucy Evans Nature Center is broken and closed to the public. (CBS)

“We had pilings rotting. We had a portion of the boardwalk that was sagging and listing to one side,” said Brad Eggleston, Palo Alto’s assistant director of public works.

So, in 2014, the city decided the boardwalk was just too dangerous and it was closed off. They were able to make some repairs and reopened the first 200 feet but the rest has remained off-limits to the public.

“It’s one of the needed projects that we hear the most about,” Eggleston said.

Lucy Evans Nature Center Boardwalk

An 850-foot-long boardwalk stretches from the visitor center to the bay. (CBS)

So, at Monday’s meeting, the city council will vote whether to approve $1.5 million to replace the boardwalk. You can probably guess how the vote will go since it’s been placed on the “consent calendar,” which means there’s no need for debate. The plan is to rebuild the boardwalk completely, widening it by one foot to comply with disabled-access regulations but the project won’t be completed until 2020.

There’s a reason for that.

“Out in the baylands, we’re limited to doing work during the bird non-nesting season which only lasts from beginning of September to the end of January,” Eggleston explained.

That’s a lesson anyone who works near the bay must learn: don’t plan on doing anything quickly and do your best to keep the neighbors happy.

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