Fri04182014

News

LAH open space stewardship gets green light


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The proposed 2013-2014 Los Altos Hills budget includes ,000 for open space stewardship. Thistles and piles of trash, like those found at O’Keefe preserve, above, populate some of the towns open spaces.

With more than 157 acres of town-owned open space preserves in Los Altos Hills, some residents argue that more weeds than people populate the areas.

Yellow starthistle, French broom and stinkweed are just a few of the offenders that residents claim deter them from enjoying the public spaces. A new stewardship program spearheaded by the Los Altos Hills Open Space Committee may uproot the thorny invaders.

The committee proposed that the city allocate $50,000 annually for invasive species management, native habitat protection, fire hazard reduction and erosion control in three of the town’s largest open spaces: O’Keefe Lane Preserve, Byrne Preserve and Juan Prado Mesa Preserve. After the Los Altos Hills City Council approves the 2013-2014 budget this summer, councilmembers plan to authorize a request for proposal to solicit a professional contractor for the work.

The new stewardship program is not only about eradicating weeds, it also aims to reinvent open spaces into valuable “town jewels,” according to Open Space Committee member Nancy Couperus. She said the committee has been lobbying the council to fund cleanup and restoration efforts at the open spaces since 2007.

Although the town currently performs periodic mowing in the preserves and the Parks and Recreation Department hosts pathways cleanups, a contractor with specialized experience in open-space management and community outreach is needed to ensure proper care, Couperus said. She envisions a group like Acterra, a nonprofit environmental agency that currently manages Redwood Grove, receiving the contract.

“The intent is to enhance its attractiveness for local residents in line with the town’s general plan,” said Couperus, who added that funding would improve O’Keefe Lane Preserve and other open spaces by opening opportunities for walking, jogging and bird watching.

In the future, the committee hopes to forge other partnerships for open-space management. Committee members are applying for a grant from the Santa Clara Water District to restore Purissima Creek and plan to approach the fire district about coordinating additional brush cleanup.

Residents voted in 2002 to enact an ordinance preventing the sale or development of town-owned open spaces without a vote.

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