Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Serenity and Fresh Air in Grant County Park

Santa Clara County residents can roll over the east foothills and dip into a valley utterly untouched by the urban lifestyle of the Bay Area.

Joseph D. Grant County Park lies less than 10 miles from San Jose. Its rolling hills, ancient oak trees, and green wetlands are the rewards for driving about 30 minutes the winding road east from Silicon Valley.

After biking to morning meetings in Santa Clara, I hitched a ride with staff from the Santa Clara County Department of Parks and Recreation to Grant Park. I thought I had landed in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains when I stepped into the quiet, serene atmosphere of the county’s largest park.

With nearly 10,000 acres of land and more than 50 miles of trails, visitors can walk for an entire day without retracing their steps. Grant Park also provides a great workout for mountain bikers with more than 23 miles of biking trails.

Local history buffs can learn about the Grant family at the restored family house next to the park office. The county purchased the Grant family property in 1975, and the park officially opened in 1978.

Since then, the park’s natural vegetation has slowly been restored. Park rangers and volunteers have been eradicating non-native plants and replacing them with the wetland vegetation that used to thrive in the area.

Park officials have built campgrounds, and many of the trails have been restored in recent years. Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Killough and Natural Resource Supervisor Don Rocha showed me the wet meadow that the department is in the process of rehabilitating.

With the park so close to the Bay Area, I hope many of our residents have seen the natural beauty resting only a few miles away. Grant Park holds many events throughout the year, and volunteers and park rangers are gearing up for the next stargazing party from 8:30 to 11 p.m. this Saturday. As beautiful as the park is during the day, it is a real sight to see at night.