San Jose Parks Foundation, as I mentioned in my first column, was born out of an enlightened look into the future by three key sectors: Parks Commissioners (led by Helen Chapman), neighborhood activists (Jean Dresden), and the city of San Jose’s department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services (PRNS), then under the direction of Albert Balagso.
San Jose Parks Foundation began in a somewhat haphazard way, due to the three years of budget cuts, re-staffing and re-configuring that took place within PRNS.
We had conceived a plan and spent considerable time refining it. Then we had to wait several months for the initial funding to arrive. Due to the changes within PRNS, the delays in funding and the confusion among staff as to what role PRNS would play in assisting the new foundation, our entire plan had to be revised on the fly.
Thanks to councilmembers Nancy Pyle and Sam Liccardo, we had some immediate and significant victories, both relating to saving programs from the budget axe. But our core belief was, and remains, that ultimately San Jose Parks Foundation needs citizens to contribute in order for it to be successful. We launched a membership campaign, targeting some key areas of the community with a direct-mail effort, accompanied by a modest email blast.
San Jose Parks Foundation needs at least a few thousand people to contribute between $60 and $150 per year, which is really between $5 and $12.50 per month. So far, we have attracted about 500 total donors at various levels, with a few hundred renewing each year. We need MANY MORE DONORS in order to be successful. That’s not an alarm. It is a request for everyone reading this to consider donating. What follows below and in my upcoming columns is WHY you should join this effort.
THE VALUE OF PARKS & TRAILS: Urban and suburban parks are essential economic factors in every municipality. They often are invisible in the economic picture that most of us have. Those who live in nice, comfortable communities with spacious lawns are often casual users of parks and trails. For apartment dwellers, parks and trails are their shared spacious yards. Both groups need to care, because parks influence property values everywhere, and they are helpful to physical and mental health. Parks are gathering places for families, friends, companies and other networks.
Parks are often taken for granted, due to the fact that most of us have grown up with them as a matter of everyday life. They were always taken care of by the local, regional or state government. But that paradigm has shifted. Eeery one of us needs to be a part of an enlightened and motivated “ownership group.”
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 http://www.sanjoseparks.org / [email protected] / 408.893.PARK