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April 2020

Heal Nature, Help Ourselves

If you are having trouble sleeping, focusing, or are feeling anxious, you are not alone. In a recent national poll, 77% of American women and 66% of men reported feeling increased personal stress. Worries about the possibility of getting sick, potentially losing a job or business, and managing finances, paired with the new tensions and challenges of sheltering in place, it’s no surprise that we are feeling overwhelmed.

As we navigate this new normal where life seems to change every day, we’ve never been more grateful for the grounding power of nature. While going for a walk won’t fix everything, getting outside and taking in some fresh air can help reduce stress and allow you to reflect, relax, and reset. In April we are recognizing two different observances that have never felt so well aligned: Earth Day and Stress Awareness Month. These days remind us that we have a responsibility to take care of nature and, if we do, nature will take care of us.

dawn-dusk-forest-grass-347134-1According to Dr. Laurie Cammon, lead physician for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s Parks Rx Program, one of the best ways to keep ourselves healthy is to spend time being active in nature. But this doesn’t mean you have to go far from home.

“Our local parks are a wonderful way to get out and spend time in nature, as long as you maintain social distancing and avoid park benches, picnic tables, and play structures and, as always, practice good hand washing with soap and water,” says Dr. Cammon. “You can walk, run, hike, or just enjoy being outside and getting some fresh air. And, even if you can’t get out to the park, going outside in your own yard or opening a window and listening to the wind in the leaves of the trees for just 30 minutes each day will help you be healthier and feel better.”

RCAN - Megan Robinson Children - UNK - 04-12-14 - 28-1

Cammon also notes how getting outdoors can help children feel happier, more confident, more attentive, less anxious, and can even help them perform better on their school work. And for those who cannot leave their homes, there are still ways to connect with nature by spending time with plants or animals inside, as well as countless online resources to help explore nature virtually without leaving the house.

There is no better time to appreciate all that nature provides us, and not just the immediate mental and physical health benefits of being outdoors. Open spaces clean our air, filter our water, protect us from storms, and provide essential land to grow our food. Here in Santa Clara Valley, the recently protected North Coyote Valley Conservation Area is a perfect example of the diverse mix of benefits nature provides. To celebrate and thank the Earth this month, we invite you to engage with us to heal nature through the visioning of this newly preserved landscape

Read more here.

Community Connections: Richard Tejeda

Community Connections highlights the many leaders, partners, and neighbors who make a difference in our community. This month we are featuring Richard Tejeda, Founder and Executive Director of Saved By Nature, a San Jose-based nonprofit organization focused on changing lives through nature.

Can nature save a life? Just ask Richard Tejeda.

Tejeda first experienced the power of nature in his twenties, when he discovered that being outdoors offered him the opportunity to escape, mentally reset, and ultimately better his life. Driven by this life-changing transformation, Tejeda is determined to break down the barriers that prevent people from accessing the healing benefits of the outdoors.

Richard oak trees-1

Tejeda has worked for many environmental organizations over the years, including Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, and even the Open Space Authority. These experiences, along with studying for degrees in Park Management and Environmental Studies, led Tejeda to develop his idea for an organization that would connect people to the outdoors, regardless of their background, ability, or income.

“I wanted to make a safe place for everybody, a place where you can be yourself while experiencing nature,” Tejeda says of his early visions of the organization.

Saved By Nature, created in 2018 and established as a nonprofit in 2019, exists to provide nature programs and field trips to all, with a special focus on seniors, at-promise-youth, those living with disability, and low-income communities of color.

Well before COVID-19 and statewide shelter-in-place orders, Saved By Nature was bringing nature to those unable to leave their homes due to disabilities and illness. Partnering with Virtual Photo Walks, a free service that connects people to nature in real time through video conferencing tools, Tejeda livestreams all Saved By Nature programs (internet connection permitting), beginning with their very first event at Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve in 2019.

IMG_1444 - 2Now, due to widespread feelings of isolation caused by self-quarantining and limited social opportunities, Tejeda has seen newfound support and appreciation from the general public for virtual nature events. Partnering with the Authority, Saved By Nature will continue to offer virtual nature walks at our preserves and urban open spaces.

Tejeda is especially passionate about the recently protected North Coyote Valley Conservation Area and and the opportunities and increased access it will provide to nature for youth growing up in nearby disadvantaged neighborhoods, like he did.

“It’s a gateway into this whole other world for a lot of kids,” Tejeda says. “Coyote Valley - it’s the Valley of Hope.”

Read more about Tejeda's story here.

Who Am I?

blue eyed grass blur

I am a native wildflower found across California. I have thin, grass-like leaves and small blueish-purple flowers with yellow centers. I bloom as early as January, but the best time to find me is between March and May. Who am I?

Join us for Wellness Wednesdays

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Need a mental break? Take a moment to watch our "Nature Breathing Meditation" video above, and experience Santa Clara Valley’s open spaces. Find peace among the trees, streams, hillsides, and creeks that we call home.  

We know that nature has the power to reduce fear, stress, and anger. As part of our new "Wellness Wednesday" series on social media, we'll be sharing nature’s amazing benefits with a focus on mental health. Tune in each week to access resources for mindfulness, meditation, and more.

Watch the current videos on YouTube or Facebook, and don't forget to follow us for more Wellness Wednesdays!

Vacancies on the Citizens' Advisory Committee

Coyote Ridge OSP - California Poppy - CH - APR-26-2012 - 22

Are you interested in facilitating community input to and from the Open Space Authority? The Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) serves to provide communications to the Authority's Board of Directors from the public, aid in fostering a positive public image of the Authority, and help educate the public about the Authority’s goals and accomplishments.

Learn More

Who Am I? Answer

4-12 - Blue Eyed Grass - C.Hutnik - APR-7-2008 - 7-1

I am the blue-eyed grass! Contrary to my name, I am not technically a grass, but a member of the iris family. I grow naturally in open grasslands and woodlands, but that doesn't mean you need to go far to look for me! You can also find me in neighborhood parks, urban open spaces, and even home gardens. Educational Aide Dani found some blue-eyed grass on her virtual video walk of Albertson Parkway - check it out!

Photo Credits

Runner - Authority Archives
Child in Nature - Authority Archives

Richard Tejeda - Saved by Nature
Richard and Dani - Annamarie Pilon, Authority Staff

Blue-Eyed Grass - Cait Hutnik, Authority Volunteer
Coyote Valley Sunrise - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff
California Poppies - Cait Hutnik, Authority Volunteer

Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority | 408.224.7476 |