To honor the Open Space Authority's 25th Anniversary, we are celebrating just a few of our key community leaders who worked so hard to establish this agency and get it up and running. We've interviewed these founders to get their perspective on the history of this unique agency and the lessons they learned in protecting our open spaces.
Garnetta Annable - Founding Board Member and current Citizens' Advisory Committee member
How did you get your start advocating for environmental causes and/or open space?
I got my start working to protect schools. I heard that my neighborhood school, which had the only open space available for kids to play on, was going to be closed. Local community members came together to push for the school to remain open and while we were unsuccessful, I continued working towards the preservation of surplus school sites. A few years later we advocated again for the preservation of the Camden High School site. While we didn’t immediately win, after the property came back on the market, we worked with then San Jose City Council Member, Jim Beall, and were able to save the playing fields, gym, and pool. The site is now known as the Camden Community Center.
How did you first get involved with what would become the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority?
Because of the work I did to protect school sites, Rod Diridon, Sr. asked me to help campaign and fundraise for parks and open spaces through renewal of the County Park Charter Fund. In 1987 I was appointed to the San Jose/Santa Clara County Joint Open Space Implementation Committee. All the local cities that were not part of Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District came together to push for legislation to form and fund the Open Space Authority. In 1988, Rod Diridon Sr. invited me to join the Santa Clara County Parks Commission where I served for nine years. During this period, we continued and succeeded in working with the community to create and fund what was then called the “Santa Clara County Open Space Authority.”
At the beginning stages of the Authority, I served on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee. Later, I served on the elected Board of Directors and now I’m currently serving on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee again as the Parks representative.
What was that experience like - building public support & launching this new public agency?
It was an exciting and challenging experience! The stakeholders interested in protecting open space and helping our community are a wonderful group of people to work with. I learned a lot through those years about how land is protected in perpetuity.
What role does open space play in protecting the Santa Clara Valley’s future?
We need parks and open space – it’s the best investment we can make for the health of our community. Open space promotes our physical and emotional health. Nature provides kids a place to play and engage in activities, while also providing a place for adults to rest and recharge. The soils in our agricultural regions are some of the richest soil in the nation. Keeping our agricultural lands through conservation easements ensures locally grown produce.
The vast open spaces we have are a vital part of the Santa Clara Valley and why many of us choose to live here. I like it here because I’m close to everything; beaches and mountains - everything is right in my backyard. Also, it makes for an ideal setting to live in – it’s nice to look up at those hillsides to see those views and to drive and bike past our farmlands.
What is one place or asset here in the Santa Clara Valley that you care about and want to protect for future generations?
Outdoor experiences and recreation have been an important part of my growth over the years. Bicycling and backpacking were once a big part of my life. These days my biggest priority is expanding the Bay Area Ridge Trail connections. This would be a great amenity good for all of us here in the Bay Area. It would also make our area a tourist attraction and that would bring economic benefits to the Valley.
Where do you like to go and what do you like to do when you want to get outside?
I love to volunteer for the Open Space Authority – I enjoy helping make the community aware that the open space preserves are out there and open for visitors. I also like to go on bike rides, riding from home down to the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve. I also love to walk at Sierra Vista and do the Boccardo Loop Trail out there.
Outdoor experiences like hiking, biking, and backpacking were an important part of my personal growth. I was talking to a friend the other day and realized that the first time I got on a bike and took a ride out in the hills, was also the first time I really got to be alone! Before that I was in school, married, had a family, and doing group activities like playing tennis.
What's your best advice for someone who wants to get involved to protect open spaces?
If this is your first time stepping up to do this work, I’d recommend volunteering for the Open Space Authority. For those who haven’t been aware of the struggles we went through to create this agency, you can volunteer to learn that history and share with others. It gives you the opportunity to act and learn a lot about nature and our community.
This type of service also can be the bridge to what is going on in our valley that needs to be protected. By volunteering for the Authority, you can also discover some of the wonderful local non-profits like Peninsula Open Space Trust and advocacy organizations like Greenbelt Alliance or Committee for Green Foothills that continue to lead the charge for preservation of the beauty and abundance of our valley.