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October 2019

Acting Locally to Fight Climate Change

#07 Coyote Valley

From last month’s youth-led Global Climate Strike, to the sobering new UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, the issue of climate change has been a steady presence in the news and at the top of mind for many of us recently. Climate change is increasing the frequency, severity, and unpredictability of storms, flooding, drought, and wildfire. As we have seen, the recurring economic and social costs of responding to these disasters are immense. This renewed attention couldn’t come soon enough as climate experts warn that time is running out to take action.

One of the key ways the Authority is tackling the issue of climate change is by working to improve our region’s “climate resilience,” the ability of our natural and human communities to respond and adapt to extreme weather conditions which lead to hotter temperatures, drought, fire, and flooding. Just as a healthy body is able to resist disease, a healthy natural environment can better withstand the negative effects of climate change.

Fortunately, here in Santa Clara County we have a tremendous natural resource available to us in this fight: Coyote Valley. This region connecting the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range, gives us the unique opportunity to protect and restore existing natural infrastructure, buffering environmental changes. For example, Coyote Valley contains thousands of acres of floodplains that can recharge aquifers and absorb water, reducing the risk of flooding in downstream communities. Agricultural lands, such as those traditionally covering the valley floor, produce 70 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than urbanized areas, so protecting these undeveloped and agricultural lands will help avoid emissions by reducing sprawl and therefore reliance on private vehicles. A statewide analysis of open space investment in California estimated that these efforts reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 4.27 million metric tons.

Investing in these multi-benefit natural resources or as we like to call it, natural infrastructure, will help our communities be more climate resilient, while also helping to meet climate goals within local and regional plans such as Climate Smart San Jose, Plan Bay Area, and others. These efforts will also help us leverage local, regional, and state funding.

These natural infrastructure assets make clear why Coyote Valley is a top conservation priority of the Open Space Authority. With significant growth projected in Santa Clara County over the next 30 years, now is the time to plan our communities and landscapes to increase our climate resilience and prepare for this new normal. 

Nature: A Prescription for Mental Health

Every October 10 we recognize World Mental Health Day, designated by the United Nations World Health Organization to raise awareness of mental health issues and promote efforts to improve mental health around the world.

The Authority is deeply committed to promoting the health benefits provided by nature and open space. We know that exercising outdoors and simply being in nature works to improve an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being by reducing stress and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Research shows that spending time in nature can lower the risk of serious and often stress-related illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Just a 30-minute walk can reduce depression symptoms, improve memory performance, and lengthen attention spans. Our mission to make nature accessible to everyone in our community informs all of the work that we do, including our community programs, the organizations we support, and even what properties we prioritize for land protection. We want all community members to have the chance to escape from hectic daily life and relax in nature.


Recently, the Authority has made the effort to provide special events and programs that promote relaxation and mental health in nature, including outdoor meditation and mindfulness sessions. In observation of World Mental Health Day this month, we're hosting more events like this! On October 11, we’ll be gathering at Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve for a Meet The Day Walk, a short, gentle stroll to watch the sun rise over the Santa Clara Valley while our docents share some of nature's mental health benefits. Also, on October 13, we’re hosting Mindfulness and Meditation by Moonlight (registration is full, but you can join the waiting list or take alternative transportation to the event). We’ll be gathering under the night sky at Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve with a guest meditation expert and Dhammakaya Buddhist monks, who will share calming breathing and meditation techniques that you can use any time to feel at peace or relieve stress.

Read more about nature's positive impacts on mental health here.

Celebrate Fall in the Santa Clara Valley!

Every evening, the sun slips behind the Santa Cruz Mountain Range a little earlier. Shorter days and golden, parched hills mean autumn has arrived in the Santa Clara Valley. With the fall harvest, colorful leaves, and wildlife spotting opportunities, this is one of the best times of year to get outside! Here are some of our favorite ways to experience fall in the Santa Clara Valley.

Enjoy the Harvest Season

martial-cottle-harvest-fest-october-2017-102Autumn welcomes a flurry of fall festivals and other events in our local communities. On October 5, join us at the Martial Cottle Park Fall Festival, which celebrates the Valley’s rich agricultural heritage and fall harvest. This family-friendly celebration includes local arts, food, music, a Fall Garden Market, and more. The Authority will be hosting a booth at this event. Come visit us!

Throughout the fall months, you can visit other local farm stands in San Jose and around Coyote Valley, to buy seasonal produce and locally-grown pumpkins. Check out our list of local farm stands and pumpkin patches here.

Take in the Fall Colors

Rancho - DN - 11-02-2014

You don’t have to travel far to see seasonal color in our local landscapes. Head out to any of our preserves in October and November to spot vibrant yellows and the occasional pops of orange and red in deciduous trees and shrubs. Some trees to seek out: Bigleaf maples, turn reddish-yellow and are found in all the preserves near streams and creeks; Western sycamores, turn yellow and orangish brown and are commonly found beside creeks or wetlands; Valley Oaks, turn yellowish-brown.

Visitors can also look forward to spotting the bright red berries of the toyon shrub, or "Christmas berry," that begin to appear later in the fall and early winter. Note: some of the red shrubby plants you might see are poison oak, so be sure to admire those bold colors from a distance!

Watch for Migratory Birds

Each fall, hundreds of species of migratory birds flock to the Bay Area, seeking refuge from the freezing temperatures in the north, either to pass through winter or as a stop en route to Latin America. Our local Coyote Valley, with its large expanse of valley land connecting the Diablo and Santa Cruz Mountain ranges, is a great place to spot some of these seasonal birds. Find out about some of the birds you might see in our Birdwatcher’s Guide to Coyote Valley.

Read more on our favorite ways to enjoy autumn in the Santa Clara Valley here.

Who Am I?


I am a native tree named for my huge, 5-lobed leaves that are 7-14 inches in diameter! If autumn temperatures get cold enough, my leaves turn a reddish yellow before dropping off for the winter. My seeds provide food for rodents and birds, while elk and deer eat my leaves, twigs, and saplings. Who am I?

Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan Receives Top Award from American Planning Association

south county farmland

The Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan, which aims to protect the last remaining agricultural land in our valley, has been selected by the American Planning Association California Chapter as the winner of the 2019 Innovation in Green Community Planning Award! The award honors efforts to create more sustainable and green communities that reduce impacts on the natural environment and improves environmental quality.

Learn more about this amazing honor and the collaborative effort between the Open Space Authority and the County of Santa Clara that went into creating the Ag Plan.

Learn More

Integrated Pest Management Program

CVAL - Weed clearing - L.Naumovich - Apr-03-2015

Tuesday, October 29, 2019
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Authority Administrative Office
33 Las Colinas, San Jose, CA 95119

The Authority is proposing to implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program that will comprehensively manage pests on Authority open space preserves in order to protect natural resources and public health.

The Authority will be holding a public scoping meeting as an opportunity for the public to provide comments on the project and environmental review process. Learn more or sign up for project updates below.

Learn More

Get Your Hands Dirty for Open Space!

North Pajaro River Agricultural Preserve - C. Kifer - June-24-2018-41

Saturday, October 26, 2019
9:30 a.m. -  3:00 p.m.

Pajaro River Agricultural Preserve, Gilroy

Join Authority staff and volunteer Land Stewards as we revisit an old favorite: Pajaro River Agricultural Preserve! We will be cleaning up the front yard by removing garbage, clearing out invasive weeds, and putting down weed cloth and mulch. We invite you to come out to give some love to this fantastic agricultural preserve.

Please bring long sleeves, sun protection, close toed shoes, and a 2-liter water bottle or container. We will provide gloves, lunch, and water at the site. Driving directions to the site will be sent after registration.


Who Am I? Answer

bigleaf maple

I am the Bigleaf maple! I can grow from 25 to 80 feet tall and am one of the Santa Clara Valley’s most colorful signs of fall. I prefer rich, moist soils. You can find me on Open Space Authority preserves near streams and creeks.

Photo Credits

Coyote Valley - Stephen Joseph
Coyote Ridge Meditation - Teri Rogoway, Authority Staff
Spina Farms Pumpkins - Cassie Kifer
Fall Trees - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff
Bigleaf Maple -  Tom Cochrane, Authority Docent
Agriculture - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff
Weed Whipping - Lech Naumovich
Pajaro River Agricultural Preserve - Cassie Kifer

Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority | 408.224.7476 |