San Mateo County’s park system is offering a new way to acknowledge individuals and groups by expanding its popular commemorative bench program to include picnic tables.
“It honors either the living or commemorates the deceased and is a wonderful way for county parks to connect with the community in a different way,” said Cecily Harris, development consultant with San Mateo County Parks.
In the last 20 years, the parks department has dedicated approximately 124 commemorative benches throughout its 19 parks and miles of regional trails, Harris said. The picnic table program is a way to accommodate the number of requests for dedicated space and also provide a symbol for individuals or groups whose connection to the park might be more in line with camping or outdoor meals.
“We thought gosh, some people like benches and others have more history with tables,” Harris said.
Harris said her department fields inquiries from people looking for commemorative options other than benches — a gazebo or overlook, perhaps — which helped spark the expansion. Also, the county parks system has expanded to include more places such as Friendship Park in North Fair Oaks and Devil’s Slide which provides more opportunity.
Like the bench program, a picnic table dedication requires a $5,000 donation to the table, a plaque and 10 years of maintenance. After the decade, those who made the donation can choose to rededicate or let it go for somebody else.
The tables come in two forms — concrete or wood with a metal frame. The concrete tables are better suited for areas with a lot of salt and wind but its maintenance often includes graffiti removal. The wooden tables are for more wilderness areas like Woodside or Pescadero and the maintenance includes replacing the wooden boards as necessary. Maintenance costs also include keeping the overall site clean and brushing back any vegetation.
The tables, either accessible or non-accessible, are installed in sites on an approved list of drop-in, group picnic, youth camp or picnic shelter locations compiled by San Mateo County Parks.
After those interested first contact the parks department, they will do a site visit with a ranger and talk about orientation. From purchase to installation, the process can take a few weeks if a table is in stock but averages about six weeks to order the plaque and, in the case of concrete tables, have one poured. If a memorial event is planned, Harris said the department does its best to work with the schedule.
While the commemorative programs give individuals and groups ways to honor their friends, family, colleagues or cherished group, Harris said she and the rest of the parks staff also benefit.
“Sometimes it’s a tragedy. Sometimes it’s someone elderly who passes,” Harris said. “Each one is kind of a story.”
Harris said there were three new bench dedications alone in the last weeks of December. One was a longtime windsurfer who passed, she said. His loved ones dedicated a bench at Coyote Point in his honor.
“The parks system has been here 90 years. It’s fun for us to hear the stories about the people that [the benches and tables] are dedicated to and the memories like, ‘my grandfather took me camping or hiking here,’” Harris said.
For more information about dedicated a table or bench visit parks.smcgov.org/donations-commemorative-programs.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102