Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Morning at Cooley Landing Park with Doug McConnell

                                              Photos courtesy of Shelly Lewis, MROSD
Henrietta J. Burroughs is shown standing with Doug McConnell at Cooley Landing Park on April 19, 2013.


As someone who interviews guests on my show, Talking with Henrietta, and as someone who reports on events that take place in the East Palo Alto and Menlo Park communities for the East Palo Alto Today newspaper, it is always an interesting experience for me when I am interviewed by someone else.

Doug McConnell interviews Henrietta J.Burroughs
Since I have simply spent a good part of my life interviewing other people, I can't convey to you how strange it is for me to be interviewed.  So, it was a fascinating experience being interviewed by Doug McConnell, whom many television viewers might remember as the host of the television show, Bay Area Backroads, which was a television series that was carried on KRON TV for 23 years in the San Francisco Bay Area.

McConnell was the host and senior editor of Bay Area Backroads from 1993 to 2009. He replaced Jerry Graham who started the show in 1985 when Graham retired to live in Santa Cruz with his family. It was certainly a surprise shortly after my interview with McConnell to hear that Graham died on April 29 of this year of a heart attack at his home in Santa Cruz.

McConnell is now the co-founder and managing partner of ConvergenceMedia Productions (CMP) in Sausalito, CA and he focuses a good portion of his time on environmental issues. I met him around 11 a.m. on April 19 to talk about Cooley Landing Park. We could not have had a more beautiful day to stand by the San Francisco Bay to talk.

McConnell is working on a video production for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD), which will include Cooley Landing Park and some of the history related to its development. I was invited to talk with him since, as the editor-in-chief of East Palo Alto Today, I could share information about some of the stories EPA Today has run detailing the community visioning process in East Palo Alto that led to Cooley Landing becoming the park that it is today. Earlier this year, I was invited to serve on MROSD's Community Advisory Committee, an invitation I accepted.

I must say speaking, personally, as someone who has interviewed hundreds of people, that McConnell is a superb interviewer.  I walked away from our interview absolutely impressed by his interviewing skills. After seeing many episodes of Bay Area Backroads, it was truly an honor to meet McConnell and an even greater honor to be interviewed by him.

During our time together, we talked about some of the experiences we had during the years that we worked in the media on the East Coast at the beginning of our careers. Going down memory lane was so much fun.

After his interview with me, McConnell went to Mt. Umunhum (Just try saying Mt. Umunhum fast. It's a treat just saying it slowly), to interview Nonette Hanko, one of the founders of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. You can just imagine how much I am looking forward to seeing the video that McConnell produces from all of the aerial footage and interviews he is compiling for his video project. I'll definitely share information in EPA Today when the video is completed.

You can click here (, to see an article, Decide the future of open space reserves, published in the April-May 17, 2013 issue of EPA Today on the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, where you are invited to participate in MROSD's visioning process for the S.F. Bay Area. If you go to the Opinion page on page 7 in this issue, you'll be able to see how Cooley Landing Park is back in the news, again, in a controversial way.

 You can click here ( to read some of the articles that appeared in East Palo Alto Today about Cooley Landing Park before it became a park. Read here ( about the park's opening in the article titled, "A dream come true: Cooley Landing," and here ( to see a video excerpt of an interview titled, Transforming a Dump into a Park, that took place with Meda Okelo and Lily Lee in 2010 on Talking with Henrietta. This video interview is certainly an historic interview for the archives.