Tuesday, September 24, 2013

CGF Urges Santa Clara City Council to Remove Ulistac Natural Area from Consideration of Soccer Park Location

Text of letter submitted to Santa Clara City Council 9/23/13

Dear Mayor and Councilmembers,

With regard to the proposal to relocate the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park to another site, the Committee for Green Foothills urges you to remove Ulistac Natural Area from consideration as a possible site for the soccer park. Committee for Green Foothills is an environmental organization dedicated to preserving open space and natural resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. We have a strong interest in maintaining Ulistac Natural Area as natural open space.

Ulistac Natural Area is the result of thousands of hours of volunteer work by schoolchildren, Boy Scouts, nature lovers, teachers, birders, and others. Collaborations with local agencies, schools and nonprofit organizations have brought resources to the restoration of this unique pocket of natural open space in the midst of an urban area. The commitment and contributions of all of these individuals and groups should not be wasted, especially when other alternatives for the soccer park exist.

Relocation of the Youth Soccer Park to Ulistac would not be consistent with the purpose of the park. There are other parks in Santa Clara where sports fields would not be problematic; but the very nature of Ulistac is that it is an undisturbed natural area that gives visitors a glimpse of how this area might have looked in the past. There is no way to use part of Ulistac for a sports field while still maintaining the integrity of Ulistac as a whole.

Councilmembers have remarked to the press that since the wetland area and the bird and butterfly garden would remain intact, there should be no concern that Ulistac habitat will be impacted. This is incorrect. The area proposed for the soccer fields is intended to be fully restored to native grassland, sycamore and oak woodlands, oak savannah habitat, and coastal scrub habitat. These are all important habitat areas in Ulistac. Animals in the wild do not confine themselves to an acre here or there, and limiting the range in which wildlife may roam acts to severely limit the number and kinds of species that can utilize the area. Soccer fields do not provide usable habitat or range for most animals; the monoculture of non-native grass and the lack of tree- or shrub-size vegetation for nesting, foraging, or hiding from predators makes lawn-style landscaping inimical for most wildlife. Therefore, placing soccer fields in the middle of the Ulistac site will impermissibly fragment the available habitat in a way that will reduce its utility to wildlife far more than is apparent from a mere calculation of square footage.

Finally, one of the factors that makes Ulistac so valuable to wildlife is the fact that it adjoins the Guadalupe River. Rivers and riparian corridors, especially those in a natural state such as the Guadalupe River, are rare and valuable resources for plants and animals. In the semi-arid Bay Area, the great majority of wildlife uses riparian corridor areas at some point, whether for shelter, foraging, or migration, since riparian corridors host a diversity and density of vegetation often found only near water sources. Open space adjacent to riparian corridors has great value for wildlife since it is accessible from the riparian corridor and does not require travel through developed areas.

For all these reasons, Committee for Green Foothills urges the City Council to remove Ulistac Natural Area from the list of alternative sites proposed for the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park. We understand that there are several other options for the Youth Soccer Park, including finding stadium parking solutions that will not require relocation of the soccer fields. We urge the City Council to remember that natural areas such as Ulistac provide great benefit for the residents of Santa Clara, including recreation and quality of life, and that the thousands of hours of volunteer restoration work and the many contributions from individuals and groups should not be rendered pointless through replacement of the natural habitat with sports fields.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Alice Kaufman
Legislative Advocate