Weather damage keeps San Jose parks closed
Alum Rock Park is closed in light of stormy weather throughout the early months of 2023. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    San Jose parks are still reeling from the heavy January rains, and the recent onslaught of wet and windy weather isn’t helping. Sixteen parks around the city are closed and it’s unclear when they will reopen.

    In the last three months, a relentless number of atmospheric river storms have pounded the Bay Area. Rain coupled with strong winds resulted in fallen trees, mudslides and flooded waterways, closing some city parks indefinitely. Scattered branches and other debris still need to be cleared, while trails and signs require maintenance.

    The abnormal amounts of rain and wind have racked up $31 million in damages across the city’s parks. Alum Rock Park, which remains closed, makes up the bulk with $19 million in estimated damages. That number could still go up, said Daniel Lazo, spokesperson for the parks, recreation and neighborhood services department.

    “There is a breadth of work happening,” Lazo told San José Spotlight. “We have geologists assessing and inspecting the road, park staff are regrading and packing the trails for safe public use. And we’re working with San Jose conservation corps to clear fallen trees at the trail since the January storm.”

    The damage to Alum Rock was most clearly epitomized by the Hollywood-esque sign at the front entrance that fell in January. But the real damage is from the mudslides, fallen trees and debris that block trails and make them hazardous.

    Juan Estrada, advocacy associate and organizer with environmental nonprofit Green Foothills, said San Jose should clarify why the parks are closed, especially because many of the parks do not look unsafe to enter.

    “If the situation is too dangerous to even inspect for repair or must wait to repair until it dries up, I think that (reasoning) should be blasted on the city website,” Estrada told San José Spotlight. “Otherwise community members wander (in and) say, ‘I don’t see anything wrong,’ and get hurt.”

    Over the weekend, Almaden Lake and Guadalupe Oak Grove parks opened after more than two months of closures. Still some parks like William Street and parts of Lake Cunningham remain closed.

    In South San Jose, Shady Oaks, Cathedral Oaks and Metcalf parks are closed. Eastside parks like Lone Bluff, La Ragione and Rocksprings are also out of commission. Other places like the Calabazas BMX Park and Overfelt Gardens are not open to the public due to the recent storms.

    Jean Dresden from San Jose Park Advocates said the city is not at fault for the park closures. She said keeping parks closed is the smart and safe thing to do.

    “These are not surprising things and not the result of bad maintenance,” Dresden told San José Spotlight. “This is the result of bad weather and not anticipating 35-40 years ago that we would see rains like this.”

    She said most of the parks currently closed are ones that reside near lakes, creeks or other waterways. When the rain overflowed in the waterways, it crept into the soil of the parks. Even if the parks don’t look affected, the wet soil could loosen roots of trees, leading to muddy pathways and landslides.

    “So let’s not have any human beings walk around them until they’re fully inspected,” Dresden said. “Plus when you have people walking on very wet soil, you can end up compacting it which impacts the roots of trees.”

    Lazo said there is no estimate on when parks will reopen and each park will have a different time frame.

    Click here to see a list of closed parks.

    To report park concerns, call the city at (408) 793-5510 or email [email protected]

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

    Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

    Leave a Reply