The New Paradigm for Our Parks & Trails

I had an incredible experience this past July, attending the Greater & Greener Conference in New York City. It was the largest gathering ever in the United States of Park, Trails and Open Space Professionals, Advocates, and Supporters, with more than 900 people from 200 cities and 20 countries.

The energy was palpable, from the pre-conference tours I took of several New York City parks and keynote speech by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the multiple tracks of seminars, lectures and workshops. The buzz in the halls between sessions brought home to me some critical messages:

1. This is a national movement, an effort to re-imagine our parks, trails and establish more open space.
2. Parks are at the heart of our democracy. These community treasures exist to serve everyone and are a shared legacy, a shared resource and responsibility.
3. Parks are whatever we want them to be. Our parks and trails are limited only by our collective imagination.
4. Even in this moment of limited government resources and budget cuts affecting parks everywhere, we have an opportunity for citizens to invest themselves in owning and redefining parks, trails, and programs in creative new ways.

What this means for San Jose:

1. With some of the most creative people in the world living here, we can build on the experience of others who have already begun to successfully redefine their parks.
2. We now have a vehicle for unleashing the creativity and energy of our citizens: San Jose Parks Foundation.

The value of parks begins with the most obvious and simple attributes. Parks are for people. Parks empower communities.

I choose the term “empower,” because that is what a park can do in a many ways. Parks are gathering places for families, friends, teams, companies, church groups, and just about every other kind of group that exists in a community. A local park is frequently the place where people come together to “be a community.”

They gather to play sports, to exercise in small groups or as individuals, using the open space, the trails, fields, and general landscape for walking, running, jumping, and movement of every kind.

Parks are also places of relaxation and contemplation, whether a parent walking a child or friends sharing a park bench or the blanketed square of a gentle lawn, or a senior getting some fresh air in a safe and quiet place. From sitting and reading a book to thinking great thoughts, from the laughter of children to the whispers of lovers, parks are a place we go that are unique and wonderful.

Parks give every citizen a little more than he or she has as an individual; they expand the living space for every family and unite us as citizens. As Frederick Law Olmstead once proclaimed, “Parks are for people.”

James P. Reber, executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, is a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at  / [email protected]  / 408.893.PARK.


  1. Parks, as of late, are where gangsters congregate, graffiti is abundant and trash is everywhere.  Most parks don’t even have green grass; the water was shut off years ago.  There is vegetation growing on the Southern Police Precinct however…

    Are you aware that our “open space” parks are havens for transients, abundant e-waste and crime?  Take a peek at the area southeast of Coleman and Hedding.

    • By the way, the person in charge of homelessness in San Jose (who makes about 110k/year, thanks for the link JK) commented on the area in a news report last night… no mention that the only people who ACTUALLY clean up the problem (enforce laws) are the police.  The same police who no longer prioritize homelessness.

      The execute in charge of homelessness sure can talk a lot though!

    • There used to be houses there.  They were cleared out, presumably because it was too dangerous for people to live that close to an airport runway.  If it’s too dangerous for people to live in houses there, then why is it not too dangerous for people to live in tents there?  We should move the runway.

      No I’m not a homeless advocate.  I only sound like one.

    • So lock them up, give the ones who want out about60% a chance, but there is no jobs, there is older people, kids,  there is not space for 80 Mill homeless.  there is no jobs, and if they did get walmart, its about9$hr,( minus tax, minus 16-22% for medical) you cannot live on that take home anywhere really, well 300 miles from nowhere!  but train them, help them, same with hemp, private prison, its works with money, heck SV you need 100k yr or its not bad, but when 25% make 250Kplus.  so jail, no.  each them yes.  follow EU look there trains are the bomb, but gas prevents trains here.  chow

  2. Leave them alone the area under the airport path is fine, most are homeless and behave, then 35% are real homeless/mental/sick/hooked whatever etc.  so like the EU, but less give them a place to camp, put dumpsters there, water, porta potties, that is better then scvwd the golden spigot and city of SJ putting like 100 mill to move them around from here to there, soon the army cops will be out there mowing them down.  so instead of jail, theones that want to go to class, rehab, will, or get jobs, the wasted, try but overall its cheaper 10mill????  hey EU gives them dope, pays there rent etc, and guess what they don’t steal, etc.  hello earth to narco water disticts, city etc.

  3. Folks please do us a favor and “follow the money” here. If you don’t then we are left with the real “New Paradigm” for our parks and trails which is:

    (1) Continue to pay your local taxes on time and in full;
    (2) Don’t waste precious time attempting to hold the local politicians accountable for responsible management of the those tax dollars or effective service delivery;
    (3) Donate some of that “disposable” income you all are hording to the author’s “non-profit” organization called “San Jose Parks Foundation.” (one of several he has founded/oversees)

    With less “disposable income” available for Mayor Reed and his council majority to divert from the City treasury to SJPF, Mr. Reber may have difficulty matching his 2011 salary-to-foundation money disbursed ratio of $1.35 dollars in his own pocket for every $1.00 SJPF spent to upgrade/maintain SJ parks/trails ($72k : $53,250).  Donations from public patrons will be required to maintian (better yet increase) the “bottom line.”

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