A Walk in the Park

If you haven’t recently visited your neighborhood park or one of San Jose’s signature parks, you are among the majority of citizens. Our parks encounter much less traffic during the winter than the rest of the year. Even in sunny California, people adapt to the changing weather and spend more of their time indoors.

Parks revive themselves during this season. The leaves have fallen from most of the trees and much of the verdant foliage has changed color or simply slowed its growth. Many birds have either flown to their winter home or arrived here at their winter quarters. My unscientific observation of squirrels—their numbers are the same, though they seem to have much more space to run around since so few people are there to bother them.

I have visited several parks over the last several weeks, enjoying the magnificence of season, and I see very few people and walking around compared to spring and summer. Those who frequent parks in winter are mostly of two types: dedicated athletes and dog walkers. There are a few exceptions. St. James Park seems to be populated at the same rate as the rest of the year.

I highly recommend that you go to your local park at least once to experience the winter pageantry, or lack thereof. Parks are ideal for contemplation, especially when you may have the park to yourself. I place this in the context of a recently released London study that found that people who live near trees (many of which are in parks) are prescribed less anti-depressants. This meshes with other studies that show physical and mental health benefits to people who live in close proximity to parks. I should add that walking for 20-30 minutes each day also has been proven to be a bulwark against depression in a few studies.

If living near trees has health value, and walking has value in and of itself, then walking in a park among trees would have to provide even more 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.


  1. Saint James Park is populated with homeless. I stopped bringing my children to the playground years ago. If you want more taxpayers to enjoy our parks, clear out the homeless and addicts. There are no parks left downtown that do not have transient issues.

  2. I appreciate the effort to get people out to neighborhood parks, but as a downtown resident I would have to drive to one of those more rural parks and that kind of defeats the purpose of walking. St. James Park is in need of desperate attention especially with the construction of more housing in the area.

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