For the past year, SCVAS has participated as a stakeholder for Cupertino’s new Parks and Recreation Master Plan. We have a long history of advocating for Cupertino’s parks (see Stevens Creek Corridor) since many of our birders frequent McClellan Ranch Preserve, Blackberry Farm, and other parks in the City to enjoy birds, wildlife, and nature. We advocated for a parks plan that recognizes Cupertino’s natural assets and directs the preservation and restoration of natural areas within the park system. Our engagement is evident in the draft plan, as it includes science-based objectives aimed at preserving and restoring habitat to reflect our region’s ecology. Goals in the plan call for habitat connectivity, pollinator gardens, water sources for birds, and increased tree canopy, to name a few. You may review the draft plan here.
In 2016, competing ballot measures that proposed contrasting uses for the old Vallco shopping center both failed at the ballot box and the project was sent back to the drawing board. A year later, the City of Cupertino kickstarted the planning process for a Vallco Special Area Specific Plan and asked the community to weigh in on the future of Vallco. Renderings of the new shopping center showed public open spaces with trees and vegetation surrounded by walls of glass, causing us to worry that the project would attract birds to the green space only to then be killed by the surrounding glass. After many discussions with Cupertino staff and consultants working on the Vallco Special Area Specific Plan, we successfully advocated for the inclusion of bird-safe building design policies and guidelines in the Plan. You may learn more about the project here.
McClellan Ranch Preserve has been SCVAS’s home for over twenty years. We have fought hard in the past to preserve its natural beauty and ecological integrity from proposals that threatened to pave and build along Stevens Creek. Considering our history with Cupertino, we were dismayed to learn recently that there is a proposal to pave the west side of Steven’s Creek to serve as overflow parking for the preserve. The plans showed an abysmal setback from the creek (less than twenty feet!) and did not include any restorative efforts. We wrote a letter to the City urging them to evaluate other solutions for parking, implement a fifty-ft setback from the creek and restore habitat along the riparian corridor. Thanks to our efforts, the plans have been modified to include setbacks from the creek and restoration.
Between late 2014 and early 2015, we engaged in a campaign to save the Stevens Creek Corridor nature preserve and park from over-development. As one of the few natural parks left on the Santa Clara Valley floor, the Stevens Creek Corridor is a critical resource for native wildlife in the city, a center for nature-oriented education, and a recreation magnet for birding, walking, jogging, and nature?play. Over 130 species, including declining populations of state and special status birds, have been documented in the riparian and meadow habitat found throughout the corridor.
In the spring of 2014, the City of Cupertino hired a consulting group to develop three designs (Design Alternatives A, B, and C) for the Stevens Creek Corridor Master Plan. When the designs were presented during a public meeting, we were disappointed that they introduced multi-use sports fields, roads and trails along the creek, extensive parking, bridges and an expanded pool complex. All of these invasive and impactful elements would require mitigation for environmental impacts in a park that is loved for its wildlife and environmental programs.
In response to the proposed designs, our advocacy team worked closely with Cupertino residents and other environmental organizations to develop “Alternative D” which aimed to protect and enhance habitat, restore natural elements, reduce development along the creek and protect nesting sites for birds and refuges for large mammals.
For four months, we campaigned for the support of our alternative by attending community and volunteer events, reaching out to local schools, talking to park visitors, and door-to-door campaigning in surrounding neighborhoods. At the end, hundreds of Cupertino residents engaged in this effort, showing just how treasured the natural park was to Cupertino residents.
In a crowded City Council meeting, Cupertino Council members made it clear that our requests for a focus on nature and restoration were heard. Council members expressed:
• Unanimous support for further restoration of Stevens Creek
• No sports fields
• No new spine road through the golf course
• No new bridge in McClellan Ranch
• No new constructed play areas
• No increased use of the pool
• Interest in a new sustainable and natural golf course design
We are extremely appreciative of Cupertino’s City Council, Parks and Recreation Commission and staff for their responsiveness to our concerns and dedication to nature. We are also grateful for the residents of Cupertino who helped us show the City that we value nature before human development-together, we have made a difference!