Why Does Palo Alto Own The Bay Trail In East Palo Alto?

The Bay Trail in East Palo Alto is heavily used by East Palo Alto residents and non-residents alike.  On any given day you will see families strolling together after dinner, parents walking in the morning pushing baby strollers,  Labradors, Pitbulls, and Chihuahuas walking with their owners, people jogging, and bikers commuting to work and riding for fun.

Unfortunately, the trail is poorly maintained by its owner, the City of Palo Alto. The lack of maintence leads to many problems, including overgrown weeds that make it difficult when bikes, joggers, and dog walkers converge on the same spot. You can see the problem in the picture I took this morning:

Picture from April 3, 2022

Imagine what this scene looks like if you are walking on the trail and a group of bikers like this pass by and you are walking a dog or pushing a baby stroller - no place to go and too many people jammed in the same spot.

This lack of maintenance is not a new issue. Here is a video that I took in 2017 shows how the overgrown trail affects biking:

Video from 2017

Dog owners are at particular risk due to the negligent maintenance of the Bay Trail. A lack of mowing and trail maintenance has led to foxtails flourishing along the trail.  Foxtails are extremely dangerous for dogs because foxtails can lodge in their paws or be inhaled. This can lead to huge vet bills. Foxtails are easily controlled  - simply mow them down. Here is an article on how to protect your dog from foxtails.


The Palo Alto Rangers are responsible for mowing back and maintaining the Bay Trail in East Palo Alto. It is clear that the Palo Alto Rangers do not have the resources to consistently maintain the Trail in EPA. The trail needs weekly maintenance, not getting cut back three times a year after becoming overgrown with out of control weeds.

Maintenance of parkland in East Palo Alto for the Palo Alto Rangers is clearly not at the top of the list of priorities. Why would it be? Palo Alto Rangers have the immense taks of maintaining Parks from Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the San Francisco Bay. They have limited resources and a hard enough time maintaining parkland in Palo Alto, let alone a park located in a different city.  I have spoken many times with Palo Alto Rangers over the last decade, and my impression is that they would happily relinquish the responsibility and obligation to manage the Baylands in EPA. They do not even include the Bay Trail in EPA in their map of the Baylands


The fact that the Bay Trail in East Palo Alto is owned and maintained by Palo Alto - not EPA - raises many larger questions.  "What historic inequity led to Palo Alto owning the best parkland in East Palo Alto? Why does East Palo Alto not have control and responsibility for parkland in its own backyard?"  East Palo Alto will never be a priority for the City of Palo Alto when it has many more competing obligations to manage and maintain parks within its own city limits. Palo Alto owning and controlling prime real estate in EPA is a historic injustice that we need to rectify sooner rather than later.

One final question - "How can East Palo Alto obtain legal control of the Bay Trail in East Palo Alto?" I see several options:

  • East Palo Alto purchases the Baylands from Palo Alto and obtains total legal control of the Baylands within EPA.
  • East Palo Alto signs an agreement with Palo Alto to maintain and manage the trail within EPA
  • Palo Alto maintains control of the Baylands in EPA, agrees to massively increase maintenance budget for trail in East Palo Alto

This is an important issue for East Palo Alto,  and I hope we can change the status quo of neglect.  The Bay Trail in EPA is a valuable resource for our community - we cannot allow it to become unusable due to a lack of maintenance.

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