In the mid 1980s, the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County set up separate task forces to develop ways of preserving the region’s open space resources. Both groups recommended establishing a new agency that would serve areas of the county outside Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
The new district would be a key part of a comprehensive, long-range strategy for protecting the county’s future quality of life by preserving the overall quality of the environment.
Civic leaders from many sectors of the community formed a committee to organize the new agency. Several attempts to pass legislation and funding measures followed. In 1992, Governor Wilson signed SB2027, which created the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority as of February 1, 1993 without identifying a funding mechanism.
An interim governing board was appointed. The cities of San Jose, Campbell, Santa Clara, Milpitas, and Morgan Hill and the County of Santa Clara passed resolutions to be included in the Open Space Authority.
OSA’s first permanent board was elected and met for the first time June 27, 1994. The creation the following month of an assessment district was challenged by a taxpayers association. Funds were held in reserve for four years until the lawsuit was decided in the Authority’s favor.
In January 1999 the Authority purchased its first property, 3,207 acres on Palassou Ridge east of Harvey Bear Ranch-Coyote Lake County Park. In the same year OSA disbursed its first funds under the Urban Open Space program to the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara.
OSA dedicated its first trail in May 2002 on Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve above Alum Rock Park. The following year the Authority secured its first agricultural preservation easement on irrigated pasture land in South County.
In 2004 the Authority opened its first preserve, Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve south of Calero County Park. The Authority’s first staging area opened on the preserve in 2005, providing direct access to OSA trails as well as paved parking, an equestrian area and visitor amenities.