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Photo by Tom Grey

Conservation Corner May/June 2018

By Shani Kleinhaus and Mackenzie Mossing




Photos (left to right) by Mackenzie Mossing: Calero County Park; Shani standing next to the vegetation that was removed at Overfelt


County Parks: A Vital Tool in Preserving Nature

Santa Clara County Parks is updating their strategic parks plan to guide the department’s next twenty years. Despite the public’s resounding calls for natural resource preservation, the original proposed vision for the plan was initially weak on emphasizing the importance of protecting nature. We wrote a joint letter and spoke up at the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting, urging them to modify the vision. Our advocacy paid off! Supervisor Simitian directed staff to add “responsible resource stewardship” to the vision. We also had the opportunity to review a draft of the plan with staff, and we were pleased to see strategies and goals that aim to include citizen science and to preserve sensitive landscapes and habitats for special-status species. 


A Win for Coyote Creek!

In late February, we learned that a site immediately adjacent to Coyote Creek in South San Jose was being considered for a bridge housing community. While SCVAS is supportive of transitional housing for the homeless, we believe this site is not in an appropriate location for a bridge housing community considering the sensitive riparian habitat and the distance from public transit and amenities (it is isolated in an industrial area). We wrote a letter to City Council urging them to drop the site from consideration and instead expedite the process for a more appropriate site in District 3. Just a few days later, we learned that the site was removed from the list and the land will soon be transferred to Santa Clara County Parks! 


Pushing Campbell to Protect Birds and Nature

With the help of our friends at the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, California Native Plant Society Santa Clara Valley Chapter, and South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition, we authored a letter to the City of Campbell asking for their new general plan to include a vision, goals, and policies that protect nature. As the City looks to “revitalize” the Los Gatos Creek Corridor with new development, we emphasized the importance of riparian setbacks, preserving and planting native trees, and bird-safe building design. We will continue to follow the planning process while advocating for nature and garnering support from the community.  


Heartbreak at Overfelt Gardens Park

In March, we learned that an overzealous volunteer took park maintenance instructions too far and decimated the California Wild native garden and wildlife sanctuary in San Jose’s Overfelt Gardens Park. Our advocacy team surveyed the damage with heavy hearts: big, beautiful Toyon shrubs reduced to stumps, young oak trees hacked into pieces, and piles of leaf litter removed from the garden. Considering how important this park is to birds and birders, we are working diligently with the Parks and Recreation Department, San Jose Parks Advocates and San Jose State University students to ameliorate the problem and discuss preventative measures so that incidents like this cannot happen again. The San Jose Parks Department will develop a recovery and management plan for California Wild, and we expect to be invited to contribute to this plan. We will make sure the native garden is restored to its former glory for people, birds, and wildlife to enjoy. 


Why SCVAS Supports LAFCO 

The Santa Clara Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) was created in 1963 by the State Legislature to curb urban sprawl through overseeing the boundaries of cities and preserving agricultural lands and open space. Today, cities and districts in Santa Clara County are required to obtain LAFCO’s approval for boundary changes (such as annexations) and to provide services outside of a city’s boundaries. SCVAS fully supports the mission of LAFCO and believes the commission is a vital tool in preserving open space and habitat for birds. During a LAFCO workshop in March, we spoke in support of LAFCO’s objectives and reminded commissioners that their responsibility is to uphold the law, even when it means that they have to say no to proposals.