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February 2020

Saving San Jose’s Largest Remaining Wetland

Laguna Seca - Jordan Plotsky-1

Did you know that one of the Bay Area's biggest freshwater wetlands lies right in San Jose's backyard? While this vitally important landscape, called Laguna Seca, has faced threat of development and drainage over the years, it has now been permanently protected as part of the recent purchase of North Coyote Valley. Few conservation deals have been done at this scale, and San Jose is one of the first cities in the nation to significantly invest infrastructure funding in nature-based solutions like this to conserve floodplains and protect water supply. Now, the Open Space Authority and local partners are planning to restore Laguna Seca.

Wetlands are unique ecosystems that provide critically important functions for our communities. They provide important habitat for wildlife, help to protect a region’s drinking water supply, can help protect downstream areas from flooding, and store excess carbon from the atmosphere, helping to buffer the effects of climate change. More than 90% of the historic wetlands in the Bay Area have been lost to development and diversion. It’s critically important we protect those that remain.

Laguna Seca is a seasonal wetland that once spanned more than 1,000 acres just south of San Jose in the Coyote Valley. It sits in a low basin near where Fisher Creek meets Coyote Creek. Historically, the wetland existed nearly year round, where water would fan out and fill the basin in the rainy season, at times getting up to five feet deep. In 1916, water was drained from Laguna Seca into the nearby Coyote Creek in an effort to make the land more suitable for farming and less suitable for wetlands. This diversion affected wildlife populations and sent more water into Fisher Creek and Coyote Creek during the rainy season.

Over the years, we have begun to understand this landscape's many values. In 2014, Coyote Valley was identified as one of the Authority’s top 10 conservation priorities, and in 2017 Laguna Seca was specifically identified as an essential landscape facilitating wildlife movement through the valley 

When voters overwhelmingly passed San Jose’s Measure T in 2018, it created an unparalleled opportunity to conserve and restore Laguna Seca and other significant undeveloped natural floodplains upstream of San Jose.

“This is one of the most significant freshwater wetland restoration opportunities we have here in the Bay Area. The chance to protect and restore a space like this is incredibly rare,” said Jake Smith, the Authority’s Conservation GIS Coordinator.

As our work restoring Laguna Seca begins, we want you to be a part of the process. Learn about ways to get involved here!

Read more about Laguna Seca here.

Local Students Help Restore a Watershed

What do you get when you bring two buses of enthusiastic elementary school students to an Authority agricultural property? Environmental restoration on an epic scale!

NPRAP - STRAW Hedgerow Planting - A-Pilon - 01-31-2020 - 116-1Last Friday, 72 third graders from Gilroy’s Rucker Elementary School joined us at the Authority’s Pajaro River Agricultural Preserve to complete restoration work in a critical watershed. Their mission: planting a native hedgerow along the edge of the organic farm field.

Partnering with the Authority, Point Blue Conservation Science led the day’s restoration activities as part of its innovative program, Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW). Earlier in the school year, Point Blue visited the students’ classrooms to give lessons on topics of watershed science and local agriculture. With this knowledge about the importance of healthy watersheds and restoration, the third graders set out to plant a variety of native, climate-smart shrubs along the property’s edge.

Native hedgerows offer over a dozen benefits, including improving water quality, attracting pollinators, providing erosion protection and weed control, and more. At Pajaro River Agricultural Preserve, hedgerows are also instrumental in allowing the current farmer, Luís Urias of UC Farms, to maintain his organic certification, because they act as filters to reduce pesticide drift from neighboring non-organic farms.

Watching the students work, Jenni Benson, Senior Project Manager at Point Blue, remarked on the monumental change the property has seen since the Authority took ownership back in 2014 and 2016. “The amazing transformation that has happened out here is really incredible,” she said.

For most of the foggy morning, students worked in small groups to transplant shrubs from nursery pots into the earth. "Me and my team went all the way to the end!” exclaimed one student.

And they did. In less than three hours, the students completed 1,400 feet of planting.

Galli Basson, Authority Resource Management Specialist, noted the intangible benefits of engaging students in local restoration work. “Letting kids work on a meaningful project and get dirty, have a fun day, and be part of something in their community... It’s something you just can’t measure."

Read the whole story and view photos from the day here.

Five Trails We LOVE!

Coyote Valley OSP - Arrowhead Loop Trail - DN - Jan-21-2018 - 5-1February is Heart Health Month, so consider enjoying time with each other outdoors while sharing your love for the natural environment. Here are five local trails that we love, both in our open space preserves and in urban open spaces that the Authority helped fund.

1. Llagas Creek Loop Trail - Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve (Easy)
We love this trail because it’s easily accessible to all visitors! This flat and paved trail begins at the parking area and meanders through a meadow where you can see abundant wildlife and wildflowers in the springtime.

2. Arrowhead Loop Trail - Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve (Easy, Moderate, or Challenging)
Take in stunning views of Mount Hamilton, Mount Umunhum, and the Coyote Valley, while spotting the diverse wildlife that make these hills their home. 

3. Lower Calaveras Fault Trail to Vista Point - Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve (Challenging)
This challenging hike will get your blood pumping, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Santa Clara Valley and a sense of solitude.

4. Martial Cottle Trail - Martial Cottle County Park (Easy)  
This paved trail runs along the perimeter of the 287-acre park that protects and shares the Santa Clara Valley’s agricultural legacy. From the trail, view agricultural fields, fruit tree orchards, and the Cottle family’s old farmhouse. The Authority contributed $450,000 towards the park’s development in 2006.

5. Three Creeks Trail - Willow Glen, San Jose (Easy) 
This short but significant trail will eventually connect the Los Gatos Creek Trail, Guadalupe Creek Trail, and Coyote Creek Trail. The one-mile paved path runs along former Union Pacific Railroad land and features an iconic water tank and fruit crates that pay homage to the Valley of Heart's Delight.
 In 2003, the Authority contributed just over $3 million towards the purchase of the land where the trail is built.

Read more about these heart healthy trails here!

Who Am I?

coast live oak leaf-049522-edited

I am a tree that can grow up to 40 feet tall. I create food for wildlife, such as woodpeckers and scrub jays, and mammals, including deer and squirrels. I’m used to living in places that burn, so I have natural protection that keeps me safe me from the heat. I can live anywhere along the coast from Mexico to Mendocino County, and I’m one of several similar species found in the Santa Clara Valley. You can spot me in all the Open Space Authority preserves! Who am I?

Happy World Wetlands Day!


Last Sunday, February 2, was World Wetlands Day! Established in 1997, this day raises global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet. It also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971.

To celebrate, check out this special video about the Santa Clara Valley's very own seasonal wetland, the Laguna Seca!


Leaving a Legacy for Future Generations

NCV - Sunrise - D.Neumann - 12-24-19-1

From the permanent protection of North Coyote Valley to connecting hundreds of thousands of people to nature, 2019 is truly a year to be remembered and celebrated!

Visit our Year in Review to learn about the Open Space Authority's initiatives, projects, and accomplishments of 2019.

Learn More

California Wildlife Day at Laguna Seca

NCV - Egret - B.Adams - Nov 2019

Saturday, March 21, 2019
11:00 a.m. -  2:00 p.m.

North Coyote Valley Conservation Area

Join us for a fun-filled day celebrating the native animals that share a home with us here in the Santa Clara Valley. This family-friendly event will have something for every nature lover: docent-led walks and activities, family-friendly crafts, nature and art workshops, a live animal presentation, and more - and located in the beautiful Laguna Seca seasonal wetland!

California Wildlife Day was officially established in 2017 by Senator Monning to celebrate our region's diverse and unique ecosystem. California Wildlife Day is celebrated on the Spring Equinox of each year.

Registration is required and available now. More details to come later this month!


Who Am I? Answer

Coyote Ridge OSP - Coast Live Oak - DN - Jan-20-2018-1

I am the Coast Live Oak! I’m one of several species of native oaks found in the Santa Clara Valley. My curled leaves are a dark, waxy green, with small barbs; the flip side has gray or golden fuzz. My acorns — which are about 2 inches long and smooth — provide food for local wildlife, and my thick bark provides some protection from fires.

Photo Credits

Laguna Seca - Jordan Plotsky
Hedgerow Planting - Annamarie Pilon, Authority Staff
Arrowhead Loop Trail - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff
Coast Live Oak Leaves - Authority Archives
Laguna Seca - Jordan Plotsky
Coyote Valley Sunrise - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff
Egret - Bill Adams, Authority Docent
Coast Live Oak - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff

Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority | 408.224.7476 |