Commitment to Land

Stories From Our Work

Commitment to Local Community

  • The history of Cooley Landing—a nine-acre peninsula in East Palo Alto on the edge of San Francisco Bay—provides a snapshot of David and Lucile’s long-standing commitment to their local communities. The land, once a fishing location for the Ohlone/Costanoan Indians, has been used in a variety of ways over the past century, including as a garbage dump and home to a boat repair business. Over time, the cities of Palo Alto and Menlo Park annexed large tracts of land around Cooley Landing until East Palo Alto became its own city in 1983 and established municipal boundaries.

  • As the Bay Area’s population grew, open space in local communities was rapidly shrinking. In 1996, when the opportunity to acquire Cooley Landing was presented to the Foundation, East Palo Alto only had about 24 square feet of parkland — the equivalent to a small walk-in closet — per resident (by way of comparison, the city of San Francisco today has about 288 square feet per resident ). Cooley Landing was also the only place in East Palo Alto that touched the San Francisco Bay. Recognizing the significance — and benefits — this land could have to the community, the Foundation decided to help protect the space.

    “The only value of money is if it's well spent. Let me tell you, this is an opportunity where the money was well spent.”
    Cole Wilbur, former president and trustee emeritus of the Packard Foundation
  • Support occurred through a number of ways and over a period of many years. David Packard’s final grant through the Packard Foundation, in 1996, was to authorize funds for the purchase of the land. Our partner, the Peninsula Open Space Trust, handled the purchase and held it in trust for a number of years until an agreement was reached with the city on how the land would be used. In 2006, the land was finally transferred to East Palo Alto to use as a nature preserve and park. Subsequent grants from the Packard Foundation have supported an environmental assessment, clean up work, help with fundraising, and development of public use areas.

  • Cooley Landing was opened to the public on July 21, 2012, and improvements to the park continue today. Thanks to a $5 million grant from the state of California, the park will unveil future enhancements including a nature center, trail improvements, and an outdoor classroom. Protecting, preserving, and improving this land has been a critical investment in our local community, providing long-lasting benefits that go far beyond the city limits of East Palo Alto.

  • Photos taken by Jitze Couperus on ‎August‎ ‎25‎, ‎2009. Some rights reserved