Kingdoms of childhood falling to urban sprawl
Fremont Argus, November 9, 2007
The developer finally has submitted his formal plan to develop the land just
east of the Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.
Despite intense outcry from this community to minimize development, he has
merely shifted the puzzle pieces, rotating all 800 houses* east of Ardenwood and
dangling schools and sports fields west of Ardenwood in front of the park.
The Coyote Hills and the Patterson Ranch lands west of Ardenwood are of
incredible regional significance and will be severely and negatively impacted by
There are many scientific reasons for this significance, but if you want to know
the most important, ask an 8-year old.
As a kid growing up in the Bay Area, I would hop over my fence into another
world–through a thicket of walnut trees where kingdoms would appear. I would
walk for a half a mile though should-high mustard plants. I could taste wild
licorice on the side of a creek that would lead to the next field.
Red-winged blackbirds would serenade us through our day and frogs would take
over at night. Wonders were everywhere. I would lift a rock and see an alligator
lizard. I would lie in the mustard and watch hawks circle and clouds turn into
We were free.
We would run and hide and yell and laugh. We were the Knights of the Round
Table. We were The Fantastic Four. We were dinosaur explorers. These weren’t
neatly manicured parks and fenced-in-schoolyards—they were the wild.
We had places that were just ours and we flourished.
This all came back to me last summer. As my 8-year-old son and I walked down a
trail that bordered the Coyote Hills Regional Park and the Patterson Ranch, he
grabbed a stick and proclaimed: “This is the Indiana Jones Trail.”
At that moment, I was his sidekick. And as we played through that afternoon, I
thought back on those places where I became who I am today.
They are all gone.
One by one, our childhood kingdoms were marked with orange flags and would be
neatly plowed, becoming quiet and lifeless. They are now urban sprawl, retail
centers and roads filled with traffic. Even our childhood creek has been
redirected into a pipe and now flows lifelessly under an expressway named after
Thousands drive by and over these places oblivious to the adventures and magic
they once contained.
Few of these places remain in Fremont and none with the potential of the
Patterson Ranch. But yet again, developers want to put up their orange flags and
cement over the magic.
By not developing the open space that currently remains west of Ardenwood, this
area would continue to protect the fragility of the Coyote Hills and maintain a
buffer that has been there for hundreds of years.
There are so many scientific reasons why this buffer should remain. But for me,
the most important is our children.
We wake up each morning and shake our heads of the headlines: Children shooting
children; the lack of physical fitness; their separation from nature; their
increase in stress.
And we ask ourselves: “What has changed?”
I submit it is the lack of these truly wild open spaces, kingdoms—the magic of
which only 8-year-olds can explain.
*Comment from Friends of Coyote Hills
Patterson family has already developed over 5,000 houses
in Ardenwood/Forest Park, the densest part of Fremont.
Another lot adjacent to the Coyote Hills Natural Area,
the 15.5-acre Tupelo lot, was sold by the Patterson
family for over $63 million for high-density
development. Zoning in the current General Plan only
allows 266 housing units on Patterson Ranch land, but
the developer wants the General Plan amended to allow an
increase to 800 housing units.
As pointed out in the
article, the developer is dangling a school and sport
field as part of the proposal in hopes of obtaining city
council approval. However, the public safety risks
associated with building on land at high risk of
liquefaction in an earthquake and on a floodplain are
you can protect Coyote Hills, "childhood kingdoms," by