Future of Parks, Trails Should Be a Key Issue in Election Season

Election season is almost here. There is a large group of mayoral candidates and a number of City Council races that will determine the direction of San Jose’s city government for years to come. One important issue I hope every candidate addresses is the future of San Jose’s parks and trails.

Parks are an asset to our city, and every segment of the community is affected by the economic impact of a local or regional park. Parks are also essential to our environment, providing the massive “green” space that helps clean our air and cool our city. Parks and trails are essential parts of our local watershed. And they provide the healthy urban space we use for exercise, children’s play, contemplation and simple relaxation. These shared spaces host our social gatherings and celebrations.

We have made a major investment in park land and we must continue to do so. A key problem facing our city is that we have the same 2,884 acres of parkland—200-plus playgrounds, nine regional parks and 54 miles of trails—that we had in 2005. But in 2014, we have 39 percent less of a budget to maintain, protect and preserve all of it.

Something besides rhetoric has to take care of this gap. San Jose Parks Foundation, neighborhood groups and volunteers have filled part of this gap the last few years. Several other nonprofit groups were already in the field and their work has also helped to address this gap. These groups include Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, Happy Hollow Foundation, Our City Forest and San Jose History Park.

As much work as these groups do, there is still much more to be done. With dynamic political leadership, San Jose can become a city that showcases its parks. An engaged, knowledgeable mayor can make a huge difference in making certain that we are stewards of our park and trail acreage. A knowledgeable, involved councilmember can also play a key role in protecting our investment.

Many cities have seen the benefit of creative private/public partnerships, where independent nonprofits, small businesses and corporations team up to fill gaps left by budget cuts. A mayor or councilmember can lead the way in bringing together such partnerships (e.g. LA’s 50 Park Initiative and New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg’s big investments in parks).

Making parks and trails a priority would set a tone for the next decade that many in the community will appreciate. Such leadership would improve overall health for all ages and increase property values throughout the city. Mayor Chuck Reed’s Green Vision has had a profound impact on our trails, and the next mayor can lead the way to completing the network, making San Jose a world leader in this area.

James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected]  or 408.893.PARK

James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected] or 408.893.PARK.

4 Comments

  1. Unless one has been hiding under a rock in one of the City’s parks for the last 8 years, no way should Parks be the key election issue in this mayoral election. 

    Every San Jose taxpayer needs to ask themselves if they are better off now than they were 4 or 8 years ago.  Crime of all sorts has increased, public safety moral has decreased, San Jose cannot even hold onto new recruits, and retention of city employees is now a serious problem for many departments.  Public Safety is getting all the attention now, but DOT, PW, ESD, PRNS and many others are having a difficult time holding onto current employees….at all levels, from executive staff to hourly workers.

    New employees that have been hired now completely understand the hostility shown by the City’s contract negotiating team when new contracts were recently negotiated.  Negotiations were entirely one-sided, contributing to even greater morale problems.  These new employees now get it, and are weighing their options. 

    It is these very workers that deliver the very services that residents demand, and expect.  Delivering these services has been very difficult, and will continue to be difficult.  The bottom line is no one considers working for San Jose to be a long term deal, not when every other agency and municipality pays a much more competitive salary. You have this current council and mayor to thank for that. 

    When it is time to vote next year, people need to ask if they want more of same, by voting for this current bunch, or if they want someone who will bring a different ideas and solutions to the table.

    Parks is not the key election issue, and it doesn’t even move the needle.

  2. Being safe and secure in our homes, businesses and on our streets are priorities that are far more important than parks and trails.

  3. Yes, our parks and trails should be an election issue.

    * Outsourcing park maintenance will vastly reduce cost. We’re paying roughly 3X comparable compensation v. private landscape maintenance companies.

    * PRNS has vehemently opposed (and threatened to cite) real estate owners that offered to maintain nearby deteriorated parkland. Shabby public spaces were lowering property values, rental rates, and attracting criminal elements. PRNS would have none of it.

    * PRNS has likewise prevented using those serving community sentence time or in job training programs from maintaining parks and trails.

    We have the resources within the current – even a lowered budget – to eliminate homeless camps and make San Jose’s parks and trails a model.

    We appear to lack the political will to do so.

  4. Wow new council K. member what’s to kill pigs because they destroy his lawn.  And Pig hater Constant agrees.  How about we solve crimes before we kill pigs eating your lawn.  There are many more important issues than pigs in
    your district.  Wake up SJ, but then it it goes to the rules committee, and guess who votes on that.  Yup Chuck and his clowns.