Balinton, Poeschel: Measure T is a prescription for health for open space
Coyote Ridge is pictured in this file photo. Photo courtesy of Dave Poeschel.

With COVID-19, uncertainty in the political landscape and smoke hanging over our valley’s landscape, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (OSA) and its Measure T is just what the doctor ordered to keep us healthy now and to bring us brighter days ahead.

The OSA is a special district protecting open space in most of Santa Clara County. Its mission is “to conserve the natural environment, support agriculture, and connect people to nature, by protecting open spaces, natural areas, and working farms and ranches for future generations.” And that is what it has done. With your support Nov. 3, Measure T will continue to expand its healthful presence in our lives.

Investment in open space is an investment in our health and is particularly critical for our most vulnerable community members who too often lack the means to access gyms and private sports facilities.

OSA preserves hiking trails and nature programs are free for all and studies show that a connection to nature can help ameliorate high blood pressure, anxiety, sleeplessness and other harmful health conditions associated with environmental racism and the stressors that disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income people.

The African American Community Service Agency (AACSA) and many local community leaders encourage you to enjoy the spaces that the Open Space Authority protects for you, your family, and everyone in our community.

If you haven’t yet, you might hike away your stress with a weekend visit to Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve in the eastern hills above Alum Rock Park. Try a cool autumn stroll at Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve or Rancho Cañada Del Oro just south of San Jose. You can find calm in our urban chaos with a break at the Ulistac Natural Area protected in the City of Santa Clara by the OSA’s 20% Funding Program which helps cities protect urban open spaces.

The Open Space Authority’s Urban Grant Program, Environmental Education Program, and free community events strengthen our connection to nature, to each other, and bolster our various community organizations’ ability to deliver their programs to promote healthy lifestyles with a priority for underserved communities.

Since 2016 the Urban Grant Program has provided nearly $4 million to our community funding programs such as Valley Verde’s San Jose Family Gardening Project, which creates and maintains community and home gardens in collaboration with 140 low-income families, Joseph George Middle School’s Learning Lab/Community Garden, and Guadalupe River Park Conservancy’s environmental education program, which supports the use of the Guadalupe River Park as an outdoor lab to help familiarize children with the outdoors, instill a sense of environmental stewardship and to teach hands‐on, standards‐based science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) lessons, with a special emphasis on serving students from Title One schools.

Measure T does not increase taxes. Measure T is a renewal of Measure Q, which passed overwhelmingly in 2014. The annual $24 parcel tax would continue until ended by voters. This funding provides the Open Space Authority with 2/3 of its base operating budget to do its vital work.

Please vote yes on Measure T. It will be good for you and those who need nature the most.  Learn more about the OSA at openspaceauthority.org.

Milan Balinton is the executive director of the African American Community Services Agency. Dave Poeschel is the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter Open Space Committee chair.

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