Sunday, May 5, 2019

Tiburon listens to the community and cancels Maintenance Shed

Tiburon nixes storage shed near Blackie’s Pasture after public outcry

People play on the newly renovated McKegney field in Tiburon, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

PUBLISHED: May 3, 2019 at 3:22 pm | UPDATED: May 3, 2019 at 5:02 pm

The Tiburon Town Council has pulled the plug on a controversial storage shed proposed near Blackie’s Pasture.

The crew that takes care of the town’s parks spends more than 1,200 hours a year maintaining the McKegney Green soccer field. But a request to save time by storing a lawnmower and other equipment closer to the field came under fire this week after residents protested, saying that a proposed storage shed would diminish the amount of park space available to the community.

“We should not waste our precious, pristine park space to store equipment solely for the convenience of town staff,” resident Samantha Walravens wrote in a letter to the Town Council. Walravens was one of dozens who wrote to city officials protesting the proposed storage facility.

“It is a fiscally irresponsible, unnecessary building, located inside one of the Bay Area’s most prized parks,” resident Angela McInerny wrote.

On Wednesday the council abandoned the idea of the $20,000 storage shed, which Town Manager Greg Chanis had asked permission to build in the Richardson Bay Lineal Park.

He had identified a site for the 600-square-foot building next to the public restrooms between McKegney Green and Blackie’s Pasture. A gravel access road would have provided a pathway for town employees to drive up to the shed from existing paved paths.

For now, maintenance staff will have to haul the mower and other equipment to the field from the town’s cramped corporation yard, which is about 2 miles away. Council members suggested the staff work with Tiburon’s Parks, Open Space and Trails Commission on another solution for storing the equipment.

“I think there was a recognition that Blackie’s Pasture defines Tiburon,” said Councilwoman Holli Thier. “It is not the best place for putting a building to store equipment.”

Thier was a fierce critic of the storage shed when the Planning Commission considered awarding a permitlast year. During a public hearing in October, she told the commissioners the decision would be “the most important vote that will ever come before you in your lifetime probably.”

Chanis withdrew his application for the shed at that October meeting before the Planning Commission took a vote. He said it was clear that commissioners wouldn’t support it and he planned to ask the Town Council for its input.

“We absolutely believe this is an important project,” Chanis said. “It would be beneficial for the town and the residents and would allow us to more efficiently and effectively manage these amazing parks we own.”

McKegney Green reopened in March after a $2 million renovation. It had been closed for nearly a year. The town bought $150,000 worth of new equipment — including a $40,000 lawnmower — to maintain the new grass, which is a sand-based alternative to typical athletic turf and is not artificial. The estimated 1,200 yearly hours of staff time spent maintaining McKegney is a new regimen, according to Chanis.

Before the renovation, he said, “Really we weren’t maintaining it as an athletic field. We were essentially taking care of it as grass.”

A crew now mows the grass twice weekly. Workers also calibrate the McKegney’s irrigation system and weed, aerate and fertilize the field.

The town’s corporation yard, at 199 Kleinert Way, is now bursting at the seams with the addition of the new equipment, Chanis said.

“It’s tight. It’s cramped. It doesn’t even come close in terms of space, but it’s what we have,” he said.

But despite those challenges, a storage shed in the Richardson Bay Lineal Park would have been a poor use of space, Thier said.

The councilwoman wants to expand the bayfront park that is home to Blackie’s Pasture, which she calls Tiburon’s “crown jewel.” She’s championed an initiative to buy land owned by the Richardson Bay Sanitary District in the park and has worked with local middle school students to brainstorm uses for that space. She said it could become, for example, a public swimming pool, a bocce ball court or a community center.

Many Tiburon residents share Thier’s love for Blackie’s Pasture. The field is named after a beloved horse, Blackie, who was tied up there for years in the 1960s after he was retired from a career as a cavalry horse for the U.S. Army. Tiburon residents visited Blackie regularly to feed him treats until he died in 1966. He was buried in the pasture that year and his grave is marked by a memorial plaque.

“When people think of Tiburon they think of Blackie,” resident Ernie Cervantes wrote in a letter to the Town Council this week, opposing the storage shed. He said placing a storage building so close to Blackie’s grave would be “disrespectful.”

“Poor Blackie,” Cervantes wrote, “is probably rolling over in his grave right now.”

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