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Thursday, January 13th, 2000 @ 1:37 PM
Subj: Feedback - Pet dog shooting in Santa Teresa Hills
From: rhorii@prodigy.net (Ronald Horii)

I think this pet shooting incident highlights a much larger issue for the Santa Teresa area. However, the issue is not just the conflict between suburbanites and ranchers, as the Mercury News article implied. In the nearby county parks, such as Santa Teresa, Calero, Almaden Quicksilver, and Grant Ranch, livestock have coexisted peacefully with park users for years. In Almaden Quicksilver, cattle graze along the fence next to the Macabee Road entrance. On the Coyote Creek Trail, trail users can pet the horses in the neighboring ranches. That's not to say that there are never any problems, but the odds of this happening are reduced because these parks have two important features: park rules and patrolling rangers. The area where the dog was killed had neither.

The article didn't mention the area by name, but it is along the Coyote-Alamitos Canal. The canal, which is only occasionally used for balancing water supplies, is usually either a dry ditch or a storm drain. It runs along Tulare Hill near Coyote Creek, then runs along the base of the Santa Teresa Hills all the way to the Almaden Valley near Almaden Lake Park. The most important feature of the canal is the levee road along its outer bank. The levee road is wide enough to accommodate maintenance vehicles, so it is more than adequate for walkers and bicyclists. The road surface is in excellent condition, better even than some of the trails in Santa Teresa County Park.

The levee road is not officially open to the public. In many places, it is fenced off and inaccessible. However, in some places it is physically accessible, if not legally accessible. Where it runs through Santa Teresa County Park, it is used as frequently as the park trails, which it is not. At the end of Snell Avenue, it is fenced off to the east, with obvious "No trespassing" signs, but it is open to the west (unless they've changed this). Only a low pole gate blocks the road, with the signs only warning that no unauthorized vehicles are allowed. This segment of the levee road runs all the way to the end of Miracle Mountain Drive, behind the Lakeview condominium complex near Almaden Lake. Below the road in several places is San Jose's undeveloped Century Oaks Park. It also runs right behind San Jose's Foothill Park.

Every day, many people can be seen using the road. They are not just rowdy teenagers. You can see nearby homeowners walking their dogs, jogging, or riding their bikes on the road. They are not vandals, trespassers, or scofflaws. They are just out to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors on what they feel is public park land. The road is owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is a public agency whose board of directors are elected by the public. Many of the district's properties are already used for recreation. Some of the best recreational trails in the Bay Area are on Water District land, such as the Los Gatos Creek Trail, the Alamitos Creek Trail, the Coyote Creek Trail, and the Stevens Creek Trail. These are important and valuable recreational resources that are used by thousands of Bay Area residents every day.

The bureaucratic knee-jerk reaction to the dog killing in the hills would be to erect more fences and "Keep out" signs in the area to keep people off the levee. The smart course of action, one that would result in a win-win situation for everyone, is to turn the Coyote-Alamitos Canal levee road into a recreational trail. Then it would have rules against letting dogs run free and would be patrolled by rangers to enforce the rules. The fences could be moved to the uphill side of the canal to separate the ranchland from the trail and prevent further dog-livestock conflicts. Compared to the other creek trails, especially the Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View, which required $10 million to build, converting the canal road into a recreational trail would be a cakewalk. The trail is already there. All that's really required is to open the gates and let the people in. Once it is open to the public, volunteers could help provide trail maintenance and patrols. The one great advantage the Coyote-Alamitos Canal has over the other creekside recreational trails in the county is that it has a great view. It runs high above the surrounding neighborhood, so it offers panaramic views of South San Jose. The undeveloped hills above the trail are also beautiful, especially in the springtime. The trail would also be a good place for volunteer neighborhood watchers to look out for criminal activity and other problems in the neighborhoods below and alert the authorities. It could serve to help cut crime in the area.

A recreational trail along the Coyote-Alamitos Canal can be the solution to a major problem. To see what the problem is, walk up one of the higher trails in Santa Teresa County Park, such as the Joice-Bernal Trail, and look down at the Santa Teresa area. What you can see are homes, shopping centers, and industrial buildings, with more being built. To the south, just beyond Tulare Hill, are the sites of the proposed 20,000-employee Cisco plant and the controversial Metcalf power plant. What you can see are more people and development coming in, with increasing urban pressures. What you can see disappearing is the quality of life. To see the solution to this, turn around on the trail and look back up towards the Santa Teresa Hills. What you then can see is open space, a place where people can escape from the tensions of urban living and get close to nature. The Coyote-Alamitos Canal is gateway to this. It's a long ribbon of open space next to a wall of open space.

If the Coyote-Alamitos Canal road is turned into a recreational trail, it can serve all the people and businesses along it path. Workers from Cisco, Santa Teresa Hospital, IBM, and other companies can get their daily lunchtime or before/after-work exercise by jogging safely on the trail instead of along the city streets, where they can get hit by cars. Using the trail would also be much safer for bicyclists than the city streets.

Bicyclists and hikers could use the trail to access other recreational trails, such as the Coyote Creek Trail and the Alamitos Creek Trail. The canal trail could provide a link between these trails. The Alamitos Creek Trail will someday follow the Guadalupe River all the way to San Francisco Bay and the Bay-ringing San Francisco Bay Trail. When it does, people in the Santa Teresa area could use the Coyote-Alamitos Canal trail to reach the Bay without having to share the road with cars. They could reach the Coyote Creek Trail and take it south all the way to Morgan Hill. The Alamitos Creek Trail, Coyote Creek Trail, and the trails in Santa Teresa Park also reach the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which is planned to be a continuous ring around the Bay Area along its ridgetops. Thus, the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail can be a gateway to hundreds of miles of recreational trails all over the Bay Area and beyond.

The Coyote-Alamitos Canal trail has the potential to become an extremely valuable recreational resource. It could probably be developed for the less than the cost of a small city park, but it could serve and benefit many times the number of people. I would recommend that the Water District, the city, and the county put their heads together and come up with a plan to develop this trail. People who are using the trail now are already voting for it with their feet. They vote yes.

For more information, see the Web page I made on the future of the canal and the Santa Teresa Hills:
http://www.santateresa.com/community/stcpark/stcpfut.htm

Ron Horii

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