No town picnic. No Pathways Run or hopping hounds scouring Byrne Preserve for milk bones. All three Los Altos Hills events – and many more – have been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
“We need to err on the side of safety and public health, and I think gathering that many people together is not a good idea,” said Sarah Robustelli, town community services supervisor, last week.
To maintain a sense of community through other means – and to provide residents with ideas for keeping active while sheltering at home – the Los Altos Hills Parks and Recreation department has launched a virtual recreation resources page on the town’s website at losaltoshills.ca.gov.
From indoor and outdoor activities to tips for working from home and staying connected with friends, the page is exhaustive. There are links to online museum and park “tours,” notices about local nonprofits in need of volunteers and lists of grocery stores offering special senior shopping hours during the coronavirus pandemic.
An email from Robustelli’s fellow California Park and Recreation Society member Nick Calubaquib inspired the idea. As director of Parks and Community Services for Watsonville, he created that city’s own virtual recreation and resources center.
Robustelli described Calubaquib’s project as uplifting.
“I thought, ‘Oh. I can do that. We can do that and tailor it to Los Altos Hills and provide what I think people are looking for: just some positivity right now,’” she said.
When designing her own virtual recreation page, Robustelli realized many local activity opportunities already existed on the town’s website; it was simply a matter of compiling resources in a central place, so residents knew about them. She added links to the town’s digital art gallery and to information sheets about recommended methods for tackling invasive weeds such as oxalis and the dreaded stinkwort.
The current environment of social distancing has also provoked a new type of offering on the page, one that might endure even after the shelter orders are lifted: virtual classes with the various educators the town contracts with. Last week, four people participated in a mindful eating course and 20 learned the basics of backyard chicken care via Zoom web conferencing. Both classes were offered free.
Los Altos resident Isabelle Cnudde, founder of animal advocacy nonprofit Clorofil, taught the poultry primer, a two-hour lecture and Q&A on housing, food and maintenance called Gearing Up for Pet Chickens. Happy and Healthy Pet Chickens, a more advanced class for current caretakers, is scheduled 10 a.m. Saturday. It is also free, but donations to support Clorofil’s other education programs are welcome.
Whether Cnudde continues to offer virtual classes is contingent on this small test run. She was, however, surprised to learn her registrants included at least one person watching from Virginia.
“If I’m able to reach people outside the Bay Area, that’s pretty cool,” Cnudde said. “So we’ll see. Let’s try first, see how it goes, see the feedback, how it really runs.”
And fear not: All those mini Hoppin’ Hounds milk bones won’t go to waste. Robustelli’s colleague, recreation specialist Chris Knopf, has been filling and refilling a cup of them for town hall visitors. Follow your four-legged companion’s nose to its location just outside the Parks and Recreation building.
“It’s a way to use what we’ve already purchased and also give them back to the residents,” Robustelli said.
For more information, visit tinyurl.com/LAH-VirtualRec.