We previously talked about the need for an active, empowered role for citizens in the stewardship of San Jose’s parks and trails. The significant cutbacks in budget and personnel have left city staff to do more work with less people and less money. The solution is to create multi-partnerships with citizens, neighborhood associations, businesses and community groups to provide a collective stewardship for the future.
Considering the quantity of parks and trails, and given the realities of reduced staffing, the solution is clear: citizen stewards, acting as individuals or in groups or as businesses/organizations, can monitor a park’s status, advise on corrective measures and propose remedies. These stewards may also be able to provide remediation or help raise funds to cover increased costs beyond what volunteers may provide.
This is the future of our parks and trails, but citizens cannot be expected to be a part of the solution (volunteering, monitoring, raising and donating funds) without being given a seat at the table in setting goals and priorities. An informed and engaged citizenry is always an asset in governance. Parks and trails of the future will be dependent on this partnership. San Jose Parks Foundation is actively promoting this new stewardship model.
Some of our key activities as stewards are: (1) to serve as a fiscal agent for citizen groups, saving them time, energy and money by receiving tax-deductible donations on behalf of small groups with specific purposes. This empowers people with energy and commitment by removing the sometimes cumbersome paperwork it takes to get going; (2) to be a liaison between PRNS and citizens, able to steer people in the right direction and relieve PRNS staff of some of the more taxing duties of answering questions that we can easily handle. San Jose Parks Foundation also has a good rapport with PRNS, which means we can help cut red tape for citizen groups; and (3) to support and assist in organizing and fundraising for the various community groups and projects.
This is an exciting time as we work with our city staff and community to create a new and broader partnerships, which will result in better communication, better decision-making, stronger neighborhoods and, ultimately, better parks and trails and recreation programs to serve the people of San Jose.
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.