In May, the California Department of Parks and Recreation released a list of 70 parks statewide slated for closure, including 15 in the Bay Area. As funds for acquisition, maintenance, and public access from state and county public agencies shrink, open space advocacy organizations are being forced to respond by getting creative and joining forces.
In the South Bay, five land conservation nonprofits have teamed up for the Living Landscape Initiative, which aims to protect 80,000 acres over the next 20 years in an area that stretches from San Benito County north to San Francisco and from the San Mateo coast east to Morgan Hill. Lands slated for protection include 30,000 acres of redwood forest, 30,000 acres of farmland and wildlife habitat adjoining the Pajaro River, 10,000 acres along the coast, and 10,000 acres of corridors to connect new and existing protected areas. A $15 million challenge grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation recently kicked off the effort, which aims to raise $60 million in three years for land protection and stewardship. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Resources Legacy Fund helped to develop the initiative.
The economic downturn has resulted in less competition from developers to buy land, but nobody expects the bust to last in Silicon Valley. “There is a window of opportunity to get this work done now,” says Audrey Rust, who has just retired after 24 years at the helm of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). “We must do right by the land and seize the chance before it’s too late.”
Along with POST, other nonprofits involved are the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, the Nature Conservancy, Save the Redwoods League, and Sempervirens Fund.
The groups will work together in ways they never have before–sharing acquisition lists, strategies, and plans, says Reed Holderman, executive director of Sempervirens Fund, which has its own complementary project to create a “Great Park,” a vast area of connected and combined lands centered around the redwood region of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara counties.
“Another goal of the initiative is to capture the imagination of the community and rally their support, especially since the state is having trouble funding public benefit projects,” says Gary Knoblock, program officer with the Moore Foundation. “If the area is going to be preserved, it’s going to come from community support.”
To learn more or to contribute, go to livinglandscapeinitiative.org.