Los Gatos Creek: Environmental Volunteers at Work

Steve Holmes represents the kind of citizen leader that we need in the years ahead, as the new paradigm of limited government requires more involvement from private sector volunteers, donors and visionaries. Mr. Holmes is all three and the group he launched, Friends of Los Gatos Creek, has already had a significant and positive impact on one of San Jose’s key environmental challenges.

The official description of the group, which developed from a conversation Steve Holmes had with some friends/neighbors had two years ago, is such: “Friends of Los Gatos Creek is a nonprofit, volunteer-based group focused on the preservation of Los Gatos Creek. Activities include creek cleanups, habitat restoration and reviving the Salmon and Steelhead populations with supported, scientific data.”

San Jose Parks Foundation became involved and helps support Steve and his vision of a vigilant group of citizens who would take on the task of protecting the ecosystems in Los Gatos Creek. A vital waterway that runs through a few cities and a few council districts within San Jose, Los Gatos Creek isn’t often appreciated by the general public for its actual value.

A basic tenet of San Jose Parks Foundation is to encourage visionaries like Steve to spend their energy and time on projects rather than use that energy completing applications and paperwork, especially when the idea is new and needs to move from talk to action. Friends of Los Gatos Creek use the SJPF as its fiscal agent. This means, when people donate to Friends of Los Gatos, they do so via San Jose Parks Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Steve was surprised to learn that salmon are actually active in Los Gatos Creek, but pollution and various other environmental impediments over the years have reduced their number. This knowledge had an impact on him and he began to investigate the situation. It was during his study of the creek, which runs from Los Gatos to San Francisco Bay, that he discovered beavers attempting to build a home in the creek near downtown.

The real significance of Friends of Los Gatos Creek and Steve’s leadership is that he converted his curiosity and his frustration with the sad state of the waterway into positive action. Others have joined in on several large-scale cleanup operations that have helped bring this ecosystem back to life. It is all done with volunteers and donations. There has been a modicum of support from the city of San Jose, Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, all of which own land through which the creek runs.

Along with Adopt-a-Creek and other volunteers, several key segments of Los Gatos Creek have been cleared of rubbish and pollutants. Much more needs to be done, but thanks to Steve and his initiative, we can see a day ahead when this creek’s magnificence will be restored.

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.

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