We tend to live our lives according to the seasons, as defined by popular opinion and advertising. Though it is technically still summer, autumn is nearly upon us. As such, it is appropriate to look through the lens of our future periscope. I see a handful of issues and challenges that lie ahead for San Jose.
I do not know how everything will turn out, but I will take a shot at identifying what I feel are some of the more important parks and trails issues likely to be discussed and developed at some level in the coming months.
First: The restoration of some services, programs and maintenance by Parks Recreation and Neighborhood Services (PRNS), which have been cut over the previous several years. Without going into a detailed list, suffice to say that when funds were cut over several years, neighborhood parks were affected. It remains to be seen how much will be restored or when it might begin, but this is an important discussion that will involve neighborhood input throughout the city.
Second: St. James Park. This magnificent centrally located urban expanse of green space, dotted with historic statuary and designed to serve as a major public square for a variety of activities, has been dormant too long. A variety of local neighborhood and business groups, nonprofit organizations and service clubs are working together to transform this hidden jewel into a significant cultural and environmental asset. The hope is that it will not be one thing—such as concerts or capital improvements—but a number of different efforts, including prioritizing families’ use of the park.
Third: Further development of the trail network. The network of trails that includes the Highway 87 Trail, the Los Gatos Creek Trail, the Guadalupe Trail and the Coyote Creek Trail is very close to being linked together in a meaningful way that will make it not just a great place for hikers, cyclists and inline skaters, but will also make it a significant transportation corridor. The Guadalupe Trail has been paved all the way to Alviso, and it’s already being used by commuters.
Fourth: Parks and trails become a part of the mayoral and council races in 2014. One of the largest city departments has been cut severely and little has been said in the political forum about it. My experience working with neighborhoods suggests that people want to know what our leaders are going to do to preserve these beautiful community treasures. Will candidates advocate for more expansive and creative community partnerships? Do they see the value of being active advocates for parks, which are critical to our environment, health and local economy?
I am hopeful that all of these will become a part of our community discussion and action over the next several months.
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.