Early birds in the South of Forest Neighborhood Association (SOFNA) in Santa Clara gathered up their gardening gloves and tools and headed for Parkway Park about 8:30 a.m. May 20. They chatted over coffee and donuts before they rolled up their sleeves and got to work sprucing up their neighborhood park at 3699 Forest Ave., where the street ends.
About 33 neighbors and Nishiyamato Academy Preschool volunteers attended the 10th annual work party (which was more party than work) at the 3.5 acre park with a triangular shape like South America (but without the west side bump at the top). The park borders San Tomas Expressway on its long side.
“The park is a hidden gem in our neighborhood,” said Mike O’Halloran, one of the work party organizers. “Our main goal is to improve the park trail a little bit more each year and make it an easy trail for a casual walk.”
Under the supervision of City grounds maintenance worker Miguel Zendejas, adults groomed the park trail, spreading gravel to beef up the low spots caused by the winter rain. They helped the kids plant marigolds and other flowers in the flowerbed around the park sign.
“[The neighborhood interest] gives me a little extra umph when I come out here to work,” said Zendejas, also a Santa Clara resident.
The South of Forest Park Neighborhood Association, formed in 2004, includes about 300 homes near Steven Creek Blvd. After the park was spruced up, neighbors pitched in for a community barbeque. Activities for kids included a bird-watching walk, frisbee throwing and pavement chalk drawing.
“Through the neighborhood association, you get to know your neighbors a little bit more,” said O’Halloran, explaining that there is a quarterly newsletter and other activities–an ice cream social, a 4th of July party and the city-wide neighborhood night out in August.
Funds to purchase park plants and finance improvements, such as a $1,500 park table that was installed in 2010, are raised through donations and fundraisers. Through June 16, mention SOFNA at Tony & Alba’s Pizza and Pasta Restaurant, 3137 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose, and they will give you a discount and donate a percentage of your check to the association.
“The association is all about community building and informing the neighborhood of issues going on,” said SOFNA past president Michelle Purviance. “It’s about civic engagement.”
Purviance explained how SOFNA worked with Stevens Creek Subaru, which changed the design of its new building (construction is scheduled to begin soon) so that traffic from the dealership will flow out onto Stevens Creek Blvd. rather than into the SOFNA residential neighborhood, which borders Stevens Creek Blvd. businesses.
“We work with business property owners to have a compatible, collaborative relationship to meet commercial needs without a negative impact on the residential neighborhood,” said Purviance. “It took neighbors being motivated and attending meetings in the summer of 2016 [to negotiate a mutually agreeable plan with Subaru].”
“Projects like the park work day are a great way to bring neighbors together for the benefit of the community. SOFNA provided materials, funding and labor that would otherwise be unavailable. Folks of all ages and backgrounds take the opportunity to intermingle and make a difference at their local park,” said Deputy Parks & Recreation Director Dale Seale. “They demonstrate through action that they have a vested interest in making sure that their park is a welcoming and fun place for everyone to enjoy.”
“Since the City Council adopted a goal in 2013 to Enhance Community and Recreational Assets, the Parks & Recreation Department has worked with community groups and leveraged thousands of hours of volunteer work, while the City allocates funding to enhance our parks,” said Seale.