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[whitespace] Council will give $50,000 to POST to help purchase Bear Creek Park

Los Gatos--Representatives from all segments of Los Gatos' population came out on June 10, asking the town council to approve a $50,000 request by the Peninsula Open Space Trust for the purchase of the Bear Creek Redwoods.

In her third appearance in front of the town council--the second since POST asked the city to increase its proposed $12,000 contribution--POST director of annual giving Daphne Muehle succeeded in persuading a council majority to appropriate $50,000.

The money, approved by a 3-1 vote, will go toward POST's repayment of the $10 million loan it took out to purchase the 805 acres of redwoods off Bear Creek Road.

POST will eventually turn the land over to Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD), which purchased another 211 acres of the same property for $15 million. So far, POST has raised close to $9 million, mostly from grants, individual donations and the Gabilan Foundation.

The Monte Sereno City Council gave the first municipal donation after several discussions over whether the land offered a public benefit to residents.

POST then turned to Los Gatos, which it assumed would be even more willing to donate given its proximity to the future open space park. The council responded by allocating $12,000. POST returned on June 19, arguing that, considering the larger size of Los Gatos' population, the town could do better than just matching Monte Sereno's contribution. With only three council members present at the June 19 meeting, the issue was continued to July 10.

In addition to many of the same speakers from the June 19 meeting, new supporters came forward as well. Community representatives, from council candidate Mike Abkin to executive director of the Chamber of Commerce Sheri Lewis, urged the council to support the $50,000 donation.

"It's almost a sacred obligation for us to take this opportunity and avail this for ourselves and for our children and the whole community," Lewis said.

They were joined by Lee Fagot, co-president of A Place for Teens, community activist Joanne Rodgers and two planning commissioners, all arguing on behalf of POST.

"The Los Gatos residents have contributed generously to this property," Rodgers said, "and we've shown enthusiasm for saving this beautiful open space area."

Pete Siemens, former councilman and current MROSD board member for the Los Gatos area, said the council had an opportunity to support an ideal example of public/private partnerships for community good.

"It shows just how those kind of partnerships can work to the best benefit," Siemens said, adding, "Los Gatos has the best reputation in the district for cooperating with the district as far as monetary and planning issues."

Council members agreed, saying that the town had the money in its Reserve for Open Space, and that the matching funds currently offered by a private donor would bring the contribution to $100,000.

"It's truly awe-inspiring," mayor Steve Blanton said. "[The old-growth redwoods] are quite rare and deserving of protection, so I'm pleased to be able to--as a community representative--do something to make sure that's there for all generations."

Council woman Linda Lubeck was the only dissenter present, though absent councilman Jan Hutchins opposed the $50,000 at the June meeting. Lubeck said the town should focus its resources on open space possibilities within its borders, as in the North 40 area.

"I feel there are competing interests," Lubeck said, "and I feel that, for whatever reason, there are a lot of people in the community that aren't represented here tonight that may not think this is $50,000 we should be granting."

Once POST finishes its fundraising and hands the land over to MROSD, the district will open the preserve for public uses, most likely for hiking and picnicking. The mountainous terrain is blanketed with redwoods and fir trees and boasts views of the Santa Clara Valley.

The land's recent history is turbulent, and the sale of the lower acreage to MROSD is still enveloped in litigation. Los Gatos Country Club investors--who once held an option on the land--are suing MROSD and Arlie Land and Cattle Co. over allegedly breaking the purchase option and negotiating a sale despite already existing litigation. Former Los Gatos High School football coach and golf course investor Pete Denevi asked the council in May not to donate money while litigation is still pending.
Nathan R. Huff

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