This column was contributed by San Benito County Planning Commissioner Valerie Egland, who is running for San Benito County Supervisor District 2. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
As a candidate for Supervisor, District 2, it’s a good time to look back at community intentions at the time of our General Plan creation and update; what were some of the positive outcomes we are or will be enjoying? Looking around my office, there are shelves of folders holding records of committees, boards, commissions, associations, foundations, events, and plans, all of which I draw on when a community or organizational need arises. I’ve chosen three folders to briefly share outcomes.
The first folder I reach for is the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan Executive Summary, developed by the first SBC Parks and Recreation Commission, serving as the Master Plan Task Force from 2008-09. Community, sports leagues and school outreach meetings were held along with a validated random telephone survey of county residents. Altogether, over 500 county residents participated in the process.
Out of the Parks Master Plan findings, we have seen many moved forward within District 2, like the River Parkway and Regional Park, for which a final Environmental Impact Report was filed in 2016. The beauty of this park area—with its still raw trails and rich natural environment—is its close proximity/relationship to the city of Hollister and San Benito High School. The access to Riparian studies in the River Parkway for all school earth science teachers and students has the potential to bring diverse county students together for a more cohesive county spirit. I have introduced a nonprofit organization, active in the Pajaro Compass Network, to the local school superintendents, facilitating a future partnership for Riparian restoration projects.
While the natural, open space is a treasure in itself, sports like cross-country, track and field, soccer, skateboarding, BMX biking, and other active sports are in the plan. With much paired use, City/County partnering will advance its development, no doubt, soon!
The second folder holds Chapter 10 of the General Plan: Recreation and Cultural Resources, Draft 2010. After citing the large national and state parks in the county, it was noted, “However, the county still lacks parks that provide active recreation, including sports fields, an aquatic center, and a comprehensive trail network.” Then, with only 3% of the cultural resources surveyed in the county, there are over 1,300 cultural sites, including 500 prehistoric and historic archeological sites, and over 850 historic buildings!
There are many goals and mandates listed in Chapter 10, some of which are the SBC Bikeway and Pedestrian Plan prepared for the Council of Governments by Alta Transportation Consulting in 2002, the River Parkway and Regional Park (EIR completed 2016), and more than I care to enumerate. We have so many assets from one end of the county to the other, rich in history and begging to be walked, visited, seen and experienced. I am inspired every time I read the sweeping ideas that can manifest a rich tourist and active recreational economy in every sector of the county.
Through all of this, the San Benito County Parks and Rec Commission advised that a parks foundation be established to raise funds, accept properties, and support the county parks and programs. In 2014, the founding board of R.E.A.C.H. San Benito Parks Foundation succeeded in carrying out that expectation with the help of Paul A. Rovella. The Commission stated that the corporation should be an acronym for Recreation, Exercise and Community Health, hence, R.E.A.C.H., and that takes me to the third folder I most often reach for: County of San Benito River Parkway and Regional Park Project, compiled by Adam Goldstone, SBC capital improvement project manager.
From working three years on the Parks and Rec Commission—and R.E.A.C.H. since 2014—I am impressed with all of the connecting benefits and beneficiaries of parks. Every sector of the community benefits from a healthier, stronger and happier population. “Park-onomics,” the business of parks, makes for a more vibrant community.
So, I suppose, I match what I’m called often when my name doesn’t come to mind, “the parks lady.” Parks health “technology” involves all things that make a community healthy: family services, housing, senior mobility, land use, food management, transportation, grant funding, medical services, roads, water, geology, history, public works, schools, park equipment, landscape architecture, environmental stewardship, wildlife, state and national partnerships, structural and architecture design, bridges and monuments, the non-profit and for-profit business sector, development, real estate, small business, conservation, law enforcement, population growth, fire prevention, emergency preparedness, emergency medical services, tourism and city/county budgets. You cannot be deeply involved with parks and not understand how all these elements work to make a vital and prosperous community. That is why I’ve involved myself in everything I could, go to every conference I can, to bring it home to San Benito County.