1. Is open space the same as a park?
The first priority of open space is the conservation value of the land, such things as streams, forests, animals and plant life. Recreation facilities like trails, restrooms, and parking are designed so visitors can enjoy the natural world with little ecological impact.
Parks provide more intensive recreation and offer highly developed facilities, including playing fields, motor sport tracks, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, and swimming pools. The emphasis is on providing a broad range of visitor activities.
2. What are OSA's protected lands?
The Open Space Authority holds title to some lands, has conservation easements on others, and has contributed funding to the preservation of open space by other agencies. All of these actions protect important undeveloped land and contribute to OSA's total protected acreage.
Of the lands owned by the Authority, only one property, Rancho Cañada del Oro, has been designated an open space preserve by the Board of Directors.
3. Why are some properties closed to the public?
Usually a property is closed after it’s purchased so staff can conduct a survey of various features. This helps determine the best alignment for trails and identify other concerns. For instance, there may be resources that need special protection.
Before planning for new facilities can begin, the Open Space Authority must be sure money will be available for ongoing maintenance as well as design and construction. The design process itself can be complex, requiring resource studies, permits, and public review. Managing a project from start to finish can take a number of years.
4. How is the Open Space Authority funded?
Funding for OSA is derived from benefit assessments adopted annually by the Board. In 1994, the Board approved formation of Assessment District 1, which levies an assessment of $12 on single family homes and an adjusted rate on commercial and industrial properties. This provides $4 million in revenues. OSA also strives to leverage its funds through grants, projects with other agencies, and private donations.
5. How does OSA decide what properties to purchase?
The Open Space Authority established ten study areas in order to collect information about land within its boundaries. The data help identify preservation needs, establish priorities, and allocate funds.
Priority is given to acquisitions that can serve a broad public, adjoin other open space, or are especially at risk of development. Lands that are visible to the urban area or can meet multiple preservation goals also have a high priority.
6. How is OSA different from Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District?
The two special districts are both dedicated to preserving open space and between them cover all of Santa Clara County. Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) also serves San Mateo County, and a small portion of Santa Cruz County.
Both agencies receive funding from the public, but in different ways. OSA is funded through a benefit assessment district. The board of directors must vote to approve the assessments each year. MROSD receives a percentage of property taxes for each parcel within its jurisdiction. This funding will continue from year to year.
Two distinct features of OSA are its Urban Open Space program, which reserves 20% of its net funding for the open space projects of participating cities and the county, and a commitment to the preservation of agriculture.
7. What is a special district?
A special district is a governmental agency, other than a city or county, organized for specified purposes within a defined boundary. School districts and fire protection agencies are familiar examples.
Special districts have many of the same powers as other local governments. They also have the same responsibility for openness and accountability.
8. Are there mountain lions on OSA properties?
Lions have been seen on Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve. Notice of the most recent sighting is posted on the preserve’s message boards. Precautions for visitors include hiking with a friend, keeping children within reach, and being alert to your surroundings at all times.
If you do see a lion, don’t approach and don’t run. Try to appear large and menacing. Speak in a loud, firm voice. Pick up and hold children. Don’t crouch or bend over. If the lion approaches, fight back.
9. When are OSA trails open?
Trails and facilities on the Authority’s preserves are open every day of the year. Hours at Sierra Vista are sunrise to sunset. At Rancho Cañada del Oro hours are 6 a.m. to sunset from April 16 through September 15. From September 16 through April 15 hours are 7 a.m. to sunset.
Trails are occasionally closed during periods of heavy rain. Information about closures can be found on the website or by calling 408-224-7476.
10. Can I bring my dog on trails?
Dogs and other pets are prohibited on all Open Space Authority lands.
11. How can I volunteer ?
Volunteers can help with land stewardship projects or OSA’s interpretive program. Interested in land-based projects? Email Dana Litwin, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, or call 408-224-7476. To sign up as an interpretive volunteer, email Teri Rogoway, Coordinator of Interpretive Programs, or call 408-224-7476.