In a move that’s beneficial to hikers, cyclists and equestrians, Santa Clara County will connect two beloved parks.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to purchase 47 acres of land between Santa Teresa and Calero county parks for $8.5 million.
Conservationists hail this acquisition as another positive step in securing the county green belt, which won significant new protections last year after the board agreed to limit development in the verdant Coyote Valley.
“Honestly, the possibility of connecting Santa Teresa and Calero parks is among the best news I’ve heard this year,” Megan Fluke, executive director of Green Foothills, told San José Spotlight. “It would give more people access to nature and closer to home.”
The county began working on this deal several months ago, according to Robin Kohn, senior real estate agent for the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department. She told San José Spotlight the county wants to make it easier for hikers and cyclists to travel between the two parks, which are several miles apart. She noted mountain bikers sometimes travel between the parks on public roads, especially Fortini Road.
The board’s agenda specifically points out McKean Road as particularly unsafe for cyclists. It lacks a designated road crossing and vehicles drive at speeds above 45 mph.
Both parks are popular with the public, but infrastructure is unable to handle the regular stream of visitors, according to county records. Parking lots in both parks routinely overflow onto local roads, including McKean and Fortini roads, as well as San Vicente Avenue. Illegal parking has resulted in complaints from neighbors and parking citations. There are also no parking options for horse trailers at the Stiles Ranch trail, and few spots at Rancho San Vicente.
The county will ask the public for feedback on how to transform the land connector before establishing a final plan. Kohn noted there are several possible ways to strengthen the connection between the two parks.
“There’s the potential for adding a safe crossing across McKean Road, which is not currently very safe,” Kohn said. “We’ve looked at the potential for a trail that would connect the two parks.”
According to county records, both parks have significant trails that could be linked with a north-south route. A trail connection through the connecting property would bring together almost 30 miles of existing trails and bikeways.
The current owner of the land is Charles Keenan, a developer with the Keenan Land Company. He told San José Spotlight he purchased the plot in 1974 with the intention of building homes, but the politics of San Jose and Almaden Valley made it difficult.
“It’s not what you want, it’s what you can (do)—and that was one I couldn’t do,” Keenan said.
Santa Clara County has taken several steps to strengthen natural green spaces. Last December, the Board of Supervisors approved additional protections for Coyote Valley, one of the last green open spaces in the South Bay, and one of the only natural connections linking the Santa Cruz and Diablo mountain ranges. San Jose took similar steps last year and in 2019 to preserve hundreds of acres of Coyote Valley from industrial development.
Linda Kwong, real property program manager for the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, told San José Spotlight it’s important to provide corridors between green spaces, not just for people but for animals that have had habitats disrupted by human development.
“As we build a connected network of protected lands, it ensures more connectivity for wildlife,” she said. “Any time land is protected and connected it really helps benefit that larger picture of landscape connectivity.”