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“Santa Clara’s Parks Department Plants Seeds for New Growth”

“Gardening is as much science and art as it is dedication,” said Jim Teixeira, Director of Santa Clara’s Parks and Recreation Department, in a recent telephone interview. Thanks to the City of Santa Clara anticipating further growth, the Parks Department conducted a study of the area’s land usage in 2014. Upon discovering a need for 97 to115 new acres of neighborhood or community park land, the Parks Department has been hard at work filling that gap. One of its upcoming projects, the new proposed park at San Tomas and Monroe Street, received approval on the final schematic design in July 2016. Once the initial study portion including the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) checklist are complete, Teixiera estimated that work may begin on the park within six to nine months.

The new park, which would retain the 0.9 acre San Tomas Aquino Creek trailhead along with adding 1.1 acres in a neighborhood park and community garden on what is currently a vacant county lot near high density housing, is a popular idea. The Santa Clara County Open Space Authority Board voted 14 to 1 to approve the $425,000 grant for the community garden and open space aspects of the project, which Teixeira saw as a very positive response to the request. (Additional funds have been allocated by the city through the Capital Improvement Project Budget.) In the initial Open City Hall survey on the park, 482 people responded. “The city has never received that number of responses on any public park,” said Teixeira. Attendance at the park meetings and continued responses to the surveys about the park have also remained high.

The Final Schematic Design of the new park has plenty of amenities for Santa Clara residents to enjoy. Some features described in the City’s July report include: “12 [additional] parking spaces, an entry plaza with seating and native shade trees, 4,000 square feet of age appropriate playgrounds, family and group picnic areas with BBQs, 11,000 square feet of grass open space, a restroom building, and off leash dog area.”

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As for the community gardens, Teixeira noted, “I grew up around having a lot of fresh backyard produce and in my home, I have an edible garden so, as you move through it, it has both beauty and function. Looking at the design for this project, you can tell we were looking for a landscape architect who has experience with community gardens in their portfolio.” Gates and Associates’ design for the community garden is one that reflects the City’s careful study of best practices around the United States including input from the National Parks and Recreation Association. This portion of the design includes “master gardener demonstration plots, 56 individual plots, 8 group plots, 4 children’s plots, ADA raised beds, cold frames for early germination and cold sensitive plants, a heritage orchard, a covered outdoor classroom space with picnic tables, storage area in the restroom building, a compost area, and a native plant/pollinator garden.” While some may wonder why there is an electronic key pad to enter the community garden area, Teixeira clarified it’s a common practice to help monitor access and provide safety. However, the community garden space will still be a place where people can get together to grow and learn and share.

But eager residents don’t have to wait for this new area to enjoy Santa Clara’s great outdoors. The Parks Department recently updated Bracher Park (near Bowers Avenue and Chromite Drive). Youth Soccer Park’s field 2 will see an upgrade starting in January 2017 and there are proposals for updates and expansion of the International Swim Center.

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