For the first time since 1993, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has asked the county parks department to review criteria for land acquisition, and they’re looking for input from the public on what kinds of parklands they buy, and where.
At three community meetings (tonight and on July 12 and 14), anyone can weigh in on how the parks agency should spend the 15 percent of its voter-approved property tax revenue that’s devoted to buying new parklands.
This won’t be a discussion of particular properties to buy or parks to expand, but rather a chance to weigh bigger questions, such as whether new parks should be in cities or in wildlands, and whether planners should focus on regional trail connections or ballfields and other developed recreational infrastructure.
“We always discuss whether the needs of the community have changed over the years,” says Tamara Clark-Shear, the parks department’s public information officer. “We have had a more regional focus and a more passive recreation focus.”
Indeed, the department has one of the area’s most extensive county park systems: 28 parks covering 46,000 acres, from Mount Madonna in the Santa Cruz Mountains to Joseph Grant on Mount Hamilton.
The possibility of a change to the department’s wildlands focus caught the attention of Bern Smith at the Ridge Trail Council, which advocates for the completion of a 550-mile trail loop along ridgelines all over the Bay Area.
“It’s likely that there are ideas of what the county might do with its acquisition money outside the traditional [open space] mission, such as infill parks in urban areas and the like,” Smith says. “For a regional trail organization such as ours, where we have 120 miles of trail to fill in Santa Clara County alone, we think it’s vitally important to get funds for acquisition of those outlying properties.”
Clark-Shear says her department will present findings from the public meetings to the Board of Supervisors in August. At a minimum, the acquisition criteria will be revised, but the supervisors could also decide to reopen the county’s master plan for parks or even its general plan.
The three meetings will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Cupertino Community Hall on July 6; the Morgan Hill Community Center on July 12; and the Mayfair Community Center in San Jose on July 14.