By Alex Kennett
I love Morgan Hill for both its small-town community and its rural open space. Since I love open space, I also love the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (OSA) and Measure T.
The OSA is a special district covering most of Santa Clara County. Its mission is “to conserve the natural environment, support agriculture, and connect people to nature, by protecting open spaces, natural areas and working farms and ranches for future generations.” And that is what it has done.
Santa Clara County has a rich agricultural history, once recognized as the “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” and famous for its orchards and canneries. Many are not aware that the county still has 24,000 acres of farmland that generates 8,100 jobs and $830 million in economic output. However, in the past 30 years alone, the county lost 21,171 acres of farmland and rangeland to development, and an additional 28,391 acres are currently at risk of being developed.
The Open Space Authority protects natural and agricultural lands for many reasons: Certainly to preserve wildlife habitat, but also so that lands are managed to reduce wildfires and floods, and to prevent pollution and improve water quality by protecting lands around creeks, streams and rivers, to protect local family farms and healthy food sources, and importantly, to increase access to trails and open spaces.
Measure T does NOT increase taxes. Measure T is a renewal of Measure Q, which passed overwhelmingly in 2014. The annual $24 parcel tax would continue until ended by voters. This funding provides OSA with 2/3 of its base operating budget to do its vital work.
The Open Space Authority Urban Grant Program, funded by Measure Q, addresses the needs of communities that currently have limited access to preserves and parks.
Several local projects that benefited from this program were the Morgan Hill Community Gardens and environmental educational programs provided by organizations such as Bay Area Wilderness Training, Bay Area Older Adults, and the Children’s Discovery Museum.
If you have not yet had the pleasure of joining OSA events led by staff and professionally trained volunteers, I highly recommend it. And that’s why I also highly recommend voting YES on Measure T.
Learn more about Measure T by visiting FriendsOfSantaClaraValleyOpenSpace.com.
Alex Kennett is Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, District 1 Board Member.