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Mountain View's antidote to civilization

Photo Eren Gknar/ Special To The Town CrierChristina Ferrari, president of Silicon Shores Corporation, pictured the transition of the barren site to the recreation area she helped create.

 

It started as a pig farm and two junkyards atop a landfill, but Shoreline Park now provides an antidote to Silicon Valley civilization, an oasis amid Mountain View’s high-tech companies and destination restaurants.

Much of the garbage-heap-to-haven transformation evolved due to Christina Ferrari’s love of a challenge. Ten years ago last month, Ferrari, a Portola Valley native, assumed the helm at Shoreline Park, partnering with the city of Mountain View. The park as we know it today has been running since July 1983, anchored by Spinnaker Sailing School and a retail shop. A hot-dog stand quenched the thirst and satisfied the appetites of windsurfers, according to Ferrari, whose official title is president of Silicon Shores Corporation.

The park boasts more than 500 acres of meandering paths, golf links and a man-made lake, offering recreation for joggers, golfers and bicyclists, as well as a safe haven for rare birds like the burrowing owl.

The predictable wind patterns provide an added plus for local windsurfers and sailors, who meet and race at Shoreline during the week. Hiking groups convene on the trails. With added events such as weddings, birthday parties and company picnics, the park draws approximately 1 million visitors annually. Shoreline stays open 364 days of the year, closing only on Christmas Day.

Directly adjacent to the Google complex, it’s nevertheless one of the city’s best-kept secrets.

“We’re trying to uncover this place for the public, but we continuously meet people who have lived here for 20 years and had no idea this existed,” said Ferrari, who remembers trips she took to the Shoreline dump as a child with her father, Roy, president of Mountain View’s Ferma Corporation, one of the largest demolition and engineering firms in the nation.

She envisioned “expanding the facilities and their offerings into something our visitors would really appreciate, by modernizing the Aquatic Center and completely renovating the Lakeside Cafe.”

The tools in Ferrari’s management arsenal include an international business degree from the University of San Diego and a passion for cooking and fine food. She travels periodically to Paris, where she studies tricks of the French pastry trade from master chefs at l’École Lenôtre, a culinary academy. Ferrari is considering adding chocolate croissants and other French pastries to the cafe’s menu.

Once just a hot-dog stand and a place to rent bikes, nowadays there’s a spiffier patio, with a remodeled front entrance, newly installed wood and a glass screen to protect customers from the winds.

In addition to physical upgrades, Silicon Shores has created more of a “bistro” atmosphere. While you can still rent bikes and order hot dogs, visitors can also discover a full espresso bar and items like vegan cookies and an $8 eggplant and formaggio panini. A variety of wines and beers are available for those who want to sip drinks while contemplating the pedal boats and kayakers on the lake. Six different to-go picnic baskets are available on short notice, ranging in price from $18.95 to $27.95. Parents can throw two-hour birthday parties and not have to worry about the decorations, which Shoreline provides for $8.99. Lunch options for the under-14 crowd include the Captain’s Lunch (choice of hot dogs or hamburgers), the Salty Sailor (two slices of pizza) or Pelican Munchies (grilled cheese and chips). Meals come with pitchers of soft drinks.

Determined to “change the existing hot-dog shack and school cafeteria ambience into one of a professionally run recreational center and a comfortable and well-appointed restaurant,” Ferrari hired her sister, Jennifer Capelo, to oversee events and marketing.

“She’s great, just a butterfly, with a good eye for decorating,” Ferrari said.

Barbara Jessel, vice president of engineering at Sunnyvale’s AMD Corporation, praised Capelo’s energy level, noting that she helped Jessel with company picnic details just a few days after Capelo gave birth in March.

Jessel looked at several other venues before deciding on Shoreline, which accommodated the dietary needs of 130 engineers, many Indian vegetarians. For under $50 a head, Capelo’s staff modified the typical events menu to include samosa appetizers and shahi paneer with roasted vegetables.

“It was amazing,” Jessel said. “They really bent over backwards, even offering burgers or hot dogs to stragglers at no extra cost.”

The staff also set up a cricket game, and kite flying from the backs of the pedal boats.

Los Altos resident Colleen O’Kane, owner of Bodies in Motion Physical Therapy and Fitness Center, has sent her two sons, Joshua and Steven Rowsey, to Camp Shoreline for three consecutive years. Counselors ensured that the 9-year-olds engaged with other campers. The boys learned to kayak there, and the whole family took up the sport.

“I like the camp, because it is well organized and fun,” O’Kane said. “The kids are taught to be safe around the water and boats, which is imperative to enjoying boating. The counselors knew my kids and interacted with them in a fun and positive manner – but still letting the kids know that they had to behave and be respectful.”

O’Kane said she also enjoys rollerblading on Shoreline trails on weekends.

“I go early, so it is very peaceful while getting a great workout,” she said. “We also just go out there to scooter and play and search for birds, snakes and lizards – any wildlife is great.”

While environmentalists in the past voiced concerns about the recreation area disturbing the natural wildlife habitat, those fears have proven unfounded. Several varieties of migratory birds and animals enjoy the wildlife sanctuary. In keeping with efforts to preserve the fragile ecosystem, the Aquatic Center prohibits motor crafts. Sailboat regattas are scheduled Thursday evenings, and windsurfers race on Mondays. John Stedman, winner of the U.S. Navy cup, coaches the Sailing Club, and Kevin Costello oversees windsurfing at the lake.

To book events or custom picnic baskets, call Jennifer at 965-3779. For more information, visit www.ShorelineLake.com.

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