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Palo Alto closes damaged Baylands boardwalk, dock

City looking at repairing, possibly replacing two structures

Palo Alto has had to temporarily close two aging Baylands structures in the past week due to damage and unsafe conditions.

The Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center Boardwalk, which runs between the center and the bay, was closed last week after a support piling underneath the boardwalk separated from the structure, rendering it unsafe for use.

A portion of the sailing station dock, which is located in the northeast area of the Baylands Preserve and is used as a launch site for water access, was also shut down over the weekend after the hinges on a ramp that connects two sections of the dock cracked and broke, Baylands Supervising Ranger Richard Bicknell wrote in an email.

The now-closed portion of the dock is "low rise," meaning it normally floats only a few inches above the water, Bicknell said. It's about one-third of the entire sail station. The pier and other two thirds of the dock – still open and accessible for park visitors – is "high rise," meaning the surface of the dock normally sits higher up, about 12 inches above the water. The hinged ramp connecting the two sections is made of aluminum and the plate that it's bolted to on the high-rise part of the dock is "some kind of steel," Bicknell said.

"Over the years the steel has corroded in the salt environment and did not secure the aluminum ramp well," he wrote. "Stresses on the hinge points for the ramp have caused four of the five connectors to crack and break.

"What we are left with is a ramp that doesn't function, a gap between the two pieces of metal and some nice rusty jagged edges. To prevent visitors from either tripping and falling or getting nasty rusty metal cuts we closed of the low-rise section of the ramp."

Bicknell said the city will now find a contractor to repair the damaged section of the dock and "will move fairly quickly with the goal of getting the closed section open again as soon as possible."

He said they're hoping the dock only needs repairs, but when the mounting plate is taken off, they could find more damage underneath, which would necessitate a larger replacement project.

Open Space staff is also working with the city to evaluate how to repair or replace the Interpretive Center Boardwalk, which was built in 1969. John Aiken, executive director of the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, said staff has been doing repairs on the decaying boardwalk for decades.

"The Interpretive Center Boardwalk is a much larger project because since it's in a wetland, it's going to require a lot of permitting and environmental impact reports," Bicknell said. "I would expect permitting on a good time frame is at least a half year away, possibly a year."

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