Volunteers Pick up the Slack at Our Parks, Trails

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to volunteer leaders and a few hundred citizens who have been cleaning our creeks, clearing our trails and preserving our parks while the City Council debates how to allocate its limited resources.

San Jose Parks Foundation supports the efforts of citizen action groups that are preventing environmental destruction, as well as helping to provide accessibility to miles of trails and waterways that often go unnoticed amid the urban and suburban sprawl of San Jose.

Severe budget cuts had a devastating impact on the department of Parks Recreation and Neighborhood Services (PRNS). Cuts to the ranger program left trails and creeks exposed to abuse and misuse by a variety of troubling forces, from homeless encampments and vandals to thoughtless residents who filled active waterways with batteries, refuse, shopping carts, tires and the like.

PRNS’s volunteer program has actually increased in size in the last few years from one part-time staffer to two full-time employees. Mollie Tobias’s efforts have been invaluable to parks and trails, delivering nearly $400,000 worth of labor annually. This includes corporate partners, students, church groups and others cleaning trails and parks.

Thankfully, many people have stepped up to cover areas such as waterways, which parallel our trails and flow through several city parks. What impresses me about these groups is that their mission is borne of genuine community need—the kind that governments usually address. We live in interesting times, though, and the political will often lags behind the reality of the problem.

Steve Holmes, a local businessman, created Friends of Los Gatos Creek (FOLGC) and has led several quarterly volunteer efforts to clean the creek and the adjacent trail at several access points. FOLGC operates on a minimal budget and has an amazing esprit de corps among the people who spend their Saturdays pulling garbage out of the creek, whose natural inhabitants include salmon and at least one hearty beaver. We can only hope that some significant funding will come from local government or corporate citizens to supplement these volunteer efforts.

Richard McMurtry, a former water resources control officer, has been active in a few efforts. Last year he created Friends of the Coyote Creek Watershed (FOCCW) to restore the waterway to healthier living streams. Richard not only leads clean-up efforts, but he has also worked with the city and county to create habitat protection for salmon and other species. Through our partnership, Richard’s group has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

In addition to these two organizations, San Jose Parks Foundation also works with Save Our Trails and the Friends of Five Wounds Trail, which provide regular cleanup, trail monitoring and visionary leadership for future expansion.

I salute and thank Steve, Richard and the many volunteers who help. We all benefit.

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.

6 Comments

  1. Quick, Mr. Reber. Without Googling it. Can you name one trail in Quicksilver Park?
    No, I didn’t think so.

        • Reber regularly contributes articles promoting the San Jose Parks Foundation. His focus is on City of San Jose parks. Ask him about a trail in Alum Rock Park.

          • Yes, Alum Rock Park would have been a better example but a person who truly has a passion for parks, trails, and the outdoors wouldn’t check that passion at the city limit.
            Reber’s writings indicate a passion all right, but not for parks, trails, and the outdoors, but for volunteers. Volunteers whose admirable efforts are parlayed to his own personal profit.

  2. John Galt –
    I realize there’s a long history of animosity you have with Jim Reber; noone is perfect after all. But wouldn’t it be better to focus on what needs to change and spend the next few days, weeks, months, years and decades working positively to help here in the valley? Jim has done that and I personally think we’re a lot better because of his work (and others like him).