Preserve saves last vestiges of open space in the region

Published in the June 24 – July 9, 2015 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Lauren Monack

Lauren Monack

Lauren Monack

I heard a story once that the indigenous peoples of Peru could not “see” the first Spanish ships when they first arrived, the ships being so unfamiliar and out of context. I don’t know how much truth there is to that story but I will say that for the longest time Coyote Valley was my Spanish ship — completely and utterly invisible to me.

I grew up in the Santa Clara Valley, born and raised in Sunnyvale in the 1960s. Like many local people, I remember the cherry and apricot orchards that stitched together each small town, providing a space between our communities that we took for granted. For those of us who have lived here all of our lives, we think back fondly on the long summers and our idyllic childhood. Our world was small and special and quiet, and, unbeknown to us, on the verge of exploding into the center of the world.

Since then, Santa Clara Valley has morphed into Silicon Valley, which has brought great progress and big development to our region and to the world, leaving very little remaining of our sweet and gentle landscape. And yet, a small, fragile piece of our history lies quietly just beyond the hustle and bustle of our busy, connected world. A magical place where time is not in a hurry, orchards bloom, cowboys ride their horses along their fields and eagles soar across the sky.

Until someone who cared guided me to this place and taught me what was before me, I could not see it. I didn’t just have blindness of sight. I had forgotten that I belonged to this land as much as the deer and the grass and the eagle.

Hikers at Coyote Valley enjoy the spring beauty. Photo by Ron Horri.

Hikers at Coyote Valley enjoy the spring beauty. Photo by Ron Horri.

Nearly 12 years ago I was offered the opportunity to come to work for the Open Space Authority. Located in south San Jose, just off Bernal Road, the office was nearly as far from civilization as my house in Boulder Creek, at least that’s what I thought at the time. Little did I know or comprehend that a hidden gem lay just beyond the very edge of suburbia, that I would become bewitched and entirely besotted by Coyote Valley.

Thousands travel through Coyote Valley every day without ever realizing it as they commute to work and school on U.S. 101: there’s Target, the golf course, the power station. But just a few blocks off of the highway another world emerges. Great fields of golden grass line Bailey and Santa Teresa Roads. Fields of squash and corn are planted and grown and are harvested with the seasons. Wild turkeys wander along Coyote Creek and golden eagles, owls and blue birds take to the sky.

In this place I find respite from the relentlessness of our go-go urgent lives. Coyote Valley has its own rhythm, its own flow. Its space allows breath and spirit to emerge. Being in the presence of nature reminds me that there is so much more to life than the daily grind.

On Saturday June 27, the OSA will open the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve, giving everyone an opportunity to find breath, spirit, and respite. The preserve comprises 348 spectacular acres located at the western edge of Coyote Valley just west of the intersection of Hale and Palm. And this preserve almost did not happen. For decades, this scenic property was eyed for corporate campuses, tract homes, and other commercial development. A silver lining to the disastrous economic crash in 2008 was that it opened up an opportunity for the Open Space Authority to purchase the land for $3,481,000.

OSA staff have built a 4-mile scenic trail, constructed six redwood bridges, a parking area, picnic areas and installed a restroom to provide an outstanding experience for visitors. During a visit here you can learn about the area’s interesting wildlife, cultural resources and water resources through a series of beautiful educational panels.

When you turn down Palm Avenue, park and step out of your car, you step back in time, connect with the valley’s rich heritage and discover the many natural wonders of the region. The site of the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve was inhabited for some 6,000 years and once served as a village and a ceremonial site for the Ohlone people.

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This land is more than just a beautiful place to visit. Its preservation also helps to protect Silicon Valley’s water supply — the Coyote Valley floor contains the last remaining undeveloped groundwater recharge area for Silicon Valley. Preservation of this land helps to conserve and protect Silicon Valley’s water supply. These lands provide habitat for some of the Bay Area’s most important plant and animal species. Coyote Valley houses an amazing array of raptors such as golden eagles and red-tailed and other hawk species, as well as circling turkey vultures.

Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve is so close to our homes. Bring your hiking boots, your bike or your horse, if you have one, and come see what’s been hidden from view. The 4-mile long Arrowhead Loop Trail leads to a ridge-top with stunning views of Mount Hamilton, Mount Umunhum and the entire Coyote Valley. See you on the trail!

Lauren Monack is the Director of Administration and Finance for the Open Space Authority and a recent transplant to Morgan Hill.

Robert Airoldi