Two candidates are running for the East Bay Regional Park District, Ward 5 seat - incumbent Ayn Wieskamp and challenger Dev Gandhi.
The ward comprises Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, Sunol and part of Fremont. Parks in the ward encompass Ardenwood, Brushy Peak, Dublin Hills, Coyote Hills, Del Valle, Mission Peak, Monument Peak, Ohlone, a portion of Pleasanton Ridge, Shadow Cliffs, Sunol and Tassajara Creek.
Questions posed to the two included what challenges does the district face, both short and long term, and is there more land that should be acquired for parks; if so, where?
They were also asked to express their views on the preservation of the Tesla area, and would the district be able to provide enough park space and services for the expanding East Bay population.
Dev Gandhi did not respond to emails. The Independent has provided a short view from his website at www.devgandhi.com, as well as from an interview when he ran for the office in 2014.
Dev Gandhi lives in Fremont next to Mission Peak. He describes himself as a tech entrepreneur. He earned a masters in computer science and MBA in management, and started two companies. He said during an interview in 2014 that he would bring a different perspective to the board.
Gandhi states on his website that he is running to solve the neglected problems of numerous East Bay Regional Parks, including Mission Peak Regional Preserve.
He writes that as our communities continue to grow with higher density development, having parks/open spaces for people to enjoy is extremely important.
He would work to preserve our parks for future generations. It is incumbent on us to understand the capacity of our parks and balance that with the visitor demand. He uses Mission Peak as an example. Over the last several years, the visitor numbers to Mission Peak have grown exponentially from 100-200/day to several thousands/day, causing ongoing damage in the park, and numerous public safety/public nuisance issues both in the park and the surrounding area.
Gandhi would support Tesla Park developing as a low impact recreation area.
He states that he has an open door policy for his employees at his company, and will try to bring that culture into the EBRPD organization. We need to take criticism constructively. “I believe in multiplicity of views. I am very connected with up to date technologies and social media and will make full use of this knowledge base.”
Ayn Wieskamp began serving on the board in June 1999.
She is currently vice-president of the EBRPD board of directors and president of the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission. Before joining the Board, she served on the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District Board, the Livermore City Council, the Alameda County Recycling Board and the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency.
In 1998, Wieskamp received the California Association of Recreation and Park District’s Special Award for her development of special family events and her efforts to expand open space and trails. A Livermore resident, she worked previously as a former public school teacher, and currently leads recreation classes.
Wieskamp writes, “I support EBRPD’s mission to protect and manage open space, shorelines and wildlife habitat. I will continue working to make environmental and recreational opportunities accessible for all. Our board passes balanced, fiscally conservative budgets and supports projects that have long term financial benefits. In 2017, we refunded $44,500,000 of 2009 WW bonds, saving taxpayers about $7,100,000 in interest. In 2017, we set up an irrevocable pension trust fund (currently at $5 million) to protect our employees. Our Shadow Cliffs solar panels offset 96% of the district’s electricity usage.”
She states that the staff keeps district property in good order. EBRPD firefighters work year round on wildfire prevention, cooperating with all fire departments. EBRPD police keep our parks safe. “We know climate change is real and our stewardship department makes sure EBRPD projects are designed to handle future change.”
Wieskamp believes that partnerships work. For example, Pleasanton and EBRPD improved Pleasanton Ridge access with the new Castleridge Trailhead. The Livermore Area Recreation and Park District and EBRPD repaved the popular Sycamore Grove Park section of a regional trail. In Fremont, Dumbarton Quarry Associates is paying EBRPD a usage fee ($4,400,000 to date) reserved for Coyote Hills projects, such as Dumbarton Quarry Campground By the Bay, opening in 2019. The EBRPD foundation, the district and Gary and Nancy Harrington (pavilion donors of $200,000) plan to open the Shadow Cliffs interpretive pavilion in 2019.
She notes that the Niles Canyon Trail is an important addition for ward 5. “I support Alameda County’s efforts to plan and build this trail.”
In addition, thanks to Senator Glazer and Assemblywoman Baker’s efforts, Del Valle received a $5,000,000 state grant to update an aging visitor center and water system. “The cost of operation and maintenance is an on-going concern. State funding and grants are necessary.”
EBRPD is working to open new staging areas in the Garms and Tyler Ranch at Pleasanton Ridge. She says of the future, that the district purchases/leases lands that support its mission. As we are able to open land-banked properties, such as Deer Valley, Concord Hills and Doolan Canyon, there will be additional parks for a growing population. In the future, it may well be that the district will need to consider a reservation system for heavily used parks on weekends and holidays.
Tesla Park deserves to be an EBRPD open-space park, not an off-road vehicle park.
She notes that the Altamont Open Space Advisory Committee has indicated that it has funds to acquire the Tesla property. “I am confident that we will find the money to purchase Tesla.” The plants and animals at Tesla are a blend of those found in San Joaquin County and Alameda County. It is an important part of the wildlife corridor. Very special Native American artifacts exist here, and must be protected.
Wieskamp concludes, “The East Bay Regional Park District makes the East Bay a much better place to live and work. I enjoy serving on the board and would like to continue.” Any questions, call Ayn at 925-447-8426.