One of California’s oldest municipal parks in San Jose is still in disrepair after suffering damages from historic rain storms and ongoing neglect by the city.
Alum Rock Park in the foothills of the Diablo mountains was one of the hardest hit areas by the January storms and has yet to make a full recovery. Parks across the entire city faced destruction caused by mudslides, landslides, flooded walkways and fallen trees. But longstanding maintenance backlogs have further contributed to crumbling park infrastructure, compounded by increasing wait times to fix aging playgrounds and trails.
Councilmember David Cohen said Alum Rock Park, located in his district, is in need of more support to restore it to full use. He explained the foundation of the road next to the creek is eroded and engineers are doing a geotechnical analysis to test if it will soon be safe enough to open one lane to cars.
“There still is a major issue, which is that the road into the park was damaged,” Cohen told San José Spotlight. “It’s accessible for bikers and walkers, but the road is just not ready.”
An annual report on city services showed only 6% of San Jose parks passed all of the maintenance categories for the 2021-22 year. The city allocated a budget of $355.3 million in 2021 to go toward “stewardship of parks and community centers, and designing creative and interesting public spaces,” according to the Parks and Community Facilities Development 2022-2026 Capital Improvement Program. Approximately $208 million of that budget was allocated to be spent in the first year on various projects. City representatives did not respond to requests for more information on how the money was used.
The services report estimated the backlog for postponed maintenance and unfunded infrastructure was about $424 million at the start of 2020-21. That is up from the year before, which required roughly $382 million. This backlog directly affects regional park facilities, community buildings, trails and park restrooms within San Jose.
City employees have also complained that most departments are understaffed, leading to more delays like in the case of park maintenance.
“The longer you go, the worse things get,” Cohen said. “We always have been understaffed in many of our departments; the parks department is no different.”
Steven Bocciardi, a resident who has utilized Alum Rock Park for more than 40 years, said on a scale of one to 10, he gives the park a five.
“Right now there are some closures but they have the North Ridge side opened up again,” Bocciardi told Spotlight. “The South Ridge side there’s a lot of closures and the trails aren’t in good shape.”
San Jose has a goal for all its residents to live within a mile of a park. District 4, which covers 15 neighborhoods in San Jose, is about to break ground on three new parks: Mercado and Bruzzone parks and the district’s first dog park located in the back of Pentitencia Creek Park. But Bocciardi said he would rather the city put the money into the existing infrastructure before building more parks which will inevitably require maintenance.
Antonio Hernandez, a hiker and biker who frequents Alum Rock Park, said he wants both. He thinks the closures are necessary to keep everyone safe, but said maintenance is still lacking. He recalled several times he had to make a quick maneuver on his bike to avoid a fallen tree.
“This park definitely needs some help and it would be nice to have some more parks,” Hernandez said. “I’ve been coming here all of my life.”
Contact Madison Wilber at minute[email protected] or follow @minutewithmadison on Instagram.