Origins – The Association can trace its roots to 1926, when residents organized to stop the excavation of “borrow” pits for construction of the Bayshore Highway (now known as Highway 101). Known as the Barron Park-Maybelle Improvement and Taxpayers Association in the 1950’s – and formed to fight annexation to the city of Palo Alto – the Barron Park Association took on its current name and purpose in 1965, including a change from opposition to support for annexation.
Key Activities of the BPA over the past decades –
1965- 1975 Intense internal discussions in the community about annexation with Palo Alto; the Barron Park had been unincorporated area in Santa Clara County. The BPA worked to have annexation, if voted by residents, to be on the Barron Park community’s terms. An election in 1975 approved annexation, with the City of Palo Alto permanently allowing Barron Park to maintain its semi-rural character. During the same pre-annexation period, the BPA was instrumental in the creation of Bol Park from what had been the Bol family donkey pasture, and the subsequent addition of the bike path. Bol Park became Palo Alto’s newest park after the annexation election.
1978 – first May Fete – an annual neighborhood party sponsored by the BPA that continues to this day.
1990 – 1997 Concerns over periodic flooding of Barron Creek led the BPA to develop a plan with the Santa Clara County Water District to create a settling basin near Gunn High School, and a diversion culvert along the Bike Path that would ultimately connect to Matadero Creek near El Camino. The massive plan took three years and $16 million to complete. But, after some further work downstream on Matadero Creek, Barron Park finally became free of the threat of flooding.
1995 – 2008 Testing of subsurface ground water in the Research Park and in Matadero Creek turned up evidence of chemical contaminants. The chemicals came from underground tanks that leaked at about a dozen sites in the Research Park, and had spread into the Barron Park neighborhood. The BPA and resident volunteers forced the State’s Department of Toxics Substance Control to include our neighborhood in an extensive testing and subsequently in the (still ongoing) remediation efforts. Matadero Creek was cleansed of contaminants by 1997, but reducing the chemical contaminants from subsurface required drilling many wells, mostly in the Research Park and the VA but also a number along the Bike Path and some on streets in Barron Park. Over time, contaminated groundwater water pumped out in Barron Park was replaced by clean water from rains percolating through the soil. In 2008, the groundwater contamination in all the wells in Barron Park and along the Bike Path had dropped to below California State drinking water standards.
1993 – present The BPA began a series of activities to improve communication within the neighborhood. These have transformed the way we present ourselves to the community and also the way neighbors interact with neighbors. In 1993, the BPA began publishing its quarterly Newsletter. A few years later, the BPA established an online presence with its BPAonline.org website, and then the BPA created several email lists, widely used today by residents sending out news and announcements and also messages about lost animals, recipes, repair recommendations and the like around the neighborhood.
More on the history of the BPA to come from BPA Historian, Doug Graham