Sneak Peek: Planning a New Preserve


Just 15 miles from downtown San José is Coyote Ridge, where the Open Space Authority has protected over 1,800 acres that are co-managed by the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency. With the design and permitting process in the final stages, plans for expanded public access at Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve are well underway. After years of planning, construction groundbreaking is set to begin in late 2022, with the grand opening slated for 2023. In the meantime, keep reading to peek behind the curtains of this open space preserve in-the-making.

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Field Operations Manager Derek Neumann and Lead Open Space Technician Patrick Stevenson look at what will be an important trail juncture evaluating trail grade, user safety, and cattle management. Trail planning at Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve takes place under the constraints of limited new trail building and using as much of the existing ranch road network as possible to limit environmental and habitat impacts.

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Future location for North Ascent Trail from trail scouting day with the Planning and Field Operations Departments. Coordination between both departments ensures a smooth hand-off between the planning and design phase and future operations and preserve management.

In 2019, the Authority initiated site surveys for environmental analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and has since worked on site planning and design while providing interim access to Coyote Ridge through Open Access Days and events programming. Upon project completion, the Preserve will be open to the public year-round and visitors can look forward to new trails built by California Conservation Corps, San Jose Conservation Corps, Open Space Authority Field staff, and volunteers. This breathtaking site features serpentine rock outcroppings, grassland, and oak woodlands. The 7.5-mile+ loop trail with nearly 1,400 feet of elevation gain will be open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians, and includes over 3 miles of dedicated Bay Area Ridge Trail.

Envisioning the Future

“We’re ecstatic to share the progress for this major planning initiative,” says Lucas Shellhammer, Interim Planning Manager. In December 2021, the Open Space Authority Planning and Field Teams met at Coyote Ridge to discuss fencing alignments and routing for the North Ascent and North Ascent Connector Trails. Over the course of two days, the teams talked through future operations and public access, and how the two will work together. There was much to discuss, including conservation grazing for fire fuel and invasive plant management, preserve maintenance, user experience, visitor safety, and accessibility.

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Interim Planning Manager Lucas Shellhammer stands on the North Ascent Trail discussing future user experience. Trail planning by the Authority team will inform future trail construction and create a sustainable, functional, and safe trail network at the Preserve and takes into account factors such as grade, cross-slope, trail surface, trail width, future erosion potential, and functionality for future trail users.

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Among many variables in trail planning and design, Derek Neumann and Patrick Stevenson consider trail grades and user safety.

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Patrick Stevenson, Derek Neumann, Supervising Open Space Technician Andres Campusano, and Lucas Shellhammer discuss trail construction logistics.

“The Open Space Authority is committed to providing experiences for visitors with limited mobility,” says Shellhammer. “Features at the central gathering area will be designed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act Guidelines for Outdoor Areas (ABA).”

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Eye-level rendering of proposed central gathering area and preserve trailhead.

Throughout the planning process, the Authority engaged with its Board of Directors, Citizens Advisory Committee, and Use and Management Committee with frequent public meetings, delivering project updates and providing opportunities for comments and feedback. Most recently, at the last Board meeting in April, the Board of Directors approved the project CEQA documentation, marking a significant milestone toward the preserve opening.

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Use and Management (U&M) Committee meetings are held regularly throughout preserve planning process. Meeting depicted above was held in late 2019 to review designs for the Malech Road preserve entrance and staging area. Members of the Authority’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) attended as well as members of the public.

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Aerial rendering of proposed Malech Road Staging Area and public access amenities.

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Lead Open Space Technician Andy Burnside discusses the project with U&M members Dorsey Moore and Sequoia Hall. Educational Program Administrator Teri Rogoway and CAC member Steve Mink listen.

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Audience members from U&M Committee meeting in late 2019.

Inspired by people and nature

The next phase of the project is creating the educational elements to be featured at the preserve. The Open Space Authority is honored to partner with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Franscisco Bay Area to promote their role as partners in land stewardship and to develop educational and interpretive content for visitors about the Tribe's history, connection to the area, and culture today. In January 2022, the Open Space Authority’s Planning team met with design and interpretation consultants at Coyote Ridge. They discussed interpretive programming and signage ideas related to the people and organizations of the region, biology, ecology, history, and resilience of the landscape.

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Consultants speak on-site at the future staging area with former Planning Manager Donna Plunkett and Teri Rogoway about future interpretive design and story-telling opportunities at the preserve.

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Unique serpentine landscape and flora provide inspiration for design of interpretive amenities.

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Teri Rogoway with consultants on the portion of trail known as the South Ascent Trail overlooking Coyote Valley and Morgan Hill discuss interpretive programming.

The team was inspired by the panoramic views, tule elk sightings, the many sights and sounds of native birds, vibrantly colorful lichens, and budding wildflowers. Once open to the public, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of Santa Clara Valley from Morgan Hill to San Jose, as well as Coyote Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains to the west.

Visualizing the Knoll Overlook

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Flags in field denote the proposed design of the future knoll overlook.

Not long after their visit in January, consultants laid out a design for the Knoll Overlook. Located near the Malech staging area, this overlook provides stunning views of Coyote Valley. In addition to amazing sights, visitors will have opportunities to learn about plant and animal species that are endemic to (or only found at) Coyote Ridge, with its rare serpentine soils and habitats.

IMG_4529-1After laying out the design in-field adjustments can be made to balance user experience and resource protection. Confirmed designs become construction drawings that guide what is built on the preserve.

Coyote Ridge OSP - Bay Checkerspot Butterfly Caterpillar - Cait Hutnik - Feb-8-2011
Bay checkerspot butterfly caterpillar on dwarf plantain

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Adult Bay checkerspot butterfly on tidy tip wildflower

Visualizing this future overlook with a layout helped the Open Space Authority get the designs just right, considering the site’s biological sensitivity and future visitor experience.

Connecting the Dots

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Lucas Shellhammer, Real Property Program Manager Linda Kwong, Associate Open Space Planner Jennifer Hooper, and Assistant General Manager Matt Freeman stand at the top of Coyote Ridge and discuss vision for protected landscape in the region.

In March 2022, an interdisciplinary team of Open Space Authority staff held a field visit at Coyote Ridge to discuss long-term coordination. This included conversations about the future management of Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve and how the preserve fits into the larger network of protected lands in the South Bay. “The impact of public access on this sensitive landscape is something we will monitor closely,” says Derek Neumann, Field Operations Manager. "The preserve will be managed adaptively so we can implement proactive protections as needed for the unique species found here.”

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Jennifer Hooper and Matt Freeman discuss unique management needs of the preserve.

Visitors may also notice that operating hours look different than other Open Space Authority preserves. “Because of the rare and sensitive species found at this location, we are looking carefully at the balance of recreation and sensitive natural resources,” says Jennifer Hooper, Associate Open Space Planner. “This preserve is unlike any other, so the Open Space Authority must work to ensure that the rare and endangered species found here can survive and thrive."

This means opening and closing hours may fluctuate seasonally based on the needs of the plant and animal residents of Coyote Ridge, giving them more uninterrupted time to carry out critical activities such as feeding. During the preserve's normal hours of operation, anyone and everyone is welcome to come and visit. “Coyote Ridge will provide an invaluable opportunity for the public to connect with nature and reap the many benefits it has to offer, all the while respecting the wildlife that call this place home,” Hooper adds.

For more information about the planning process for Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve, please click here and stay tuned for more exciting updates as construction begins.

May 27, 2022
For media inquiries contact:

Charlotte Graham

Public Information Officer
cgraham@openspaceauthority.org