Q&A WITH JASON SU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF GUADALUPE RIVER PARK CONSERVANCY

Guadalupe River Park and Gardens looks its best during spring – and that is the case this year when COVID-19 is omnipresent.

SJDA did a quick interview with Jason Su, executive director of the Guadalupe River Conservancy to provide an update of Guadalupe River Park and Gardens usage during a time of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders.

 

How many people are using the park these days?

Observationally, we have seen increased trail/park usage with a variety of activities, dog walking, exercise, walking loops, running, biking, nature photography, golf practice, and more!

 

How important is the park these days?

The increase in park usage during the shelter-in-place order is important to note. If we are expecting evolving degrees of social distancing, and that we will be dealing with COVID-19 in one form or another for the next 12-18 months, we will need places like parks to keep our community physically healthy and mentally well. Imagine how much less physically healthy or mentally well we would be if we were not able to exercise and momentarily break from worrying about this pandemic by taking in sunlight and nature. I think there would be a lot less hope, more harm, more sense of loneliness, and more difficulty in adhering to a prolonged shelter-in-place order. The fact that our region has been able to flatten the curve so well while maintaining access to the majority of our parks just shows our critical park infrastructure is.


What seems to be the most popular spots in the park?

While the Visitor Center and Rotary PlayGarden are closed, many still safely use the park. Arena Green is a popular place for people to do laps or kick a ball around. The Guadalupe River Trail from downtown to the airport is a popular area for running and cycling.


Is the 6-foot social distancing difficult or easy for people?

With 254 acres and a length of 3 miles, social distancing has been adhered to well. What’s great about running and biking along a trail is that you seldom touch anything with your hands. San Jose parks organizations have been amplifying PRNS’s park usage guidelines with #6FeetApart and #KeepSJParksOpen


How does the park look during spring?

The Historic Orchard trees are budding. The Heritage Rose Garden roses are starting to bloom. The grass is lush following early spring rains, and the longer days make it more attractive to bike and run. With the shelter-in-place order, and despite increased trail use, we have seen a number of wildlife return. Wild turkeys were spotted recently. More ducks and geese can be seen in the river. North of Julian Street, you can easily hear frogs in the river.


Increase or decrease in homeless using the park to sleep?

The homeless population still persists in the River Park. Porta potties and hand-washing stations have been added to the park trail entrances. Observationally, there seems to be less homeless due to the efforts by the city and county to house them during the COVID 19 pandemic. The houseless community seems to have also self-organized their debris to be collected adjacent to the porta-potties, so the trails themselves are relatively clean.

(Editor’s Note: Groundwerx staff is checking the stations every day to make sure they have water, soap and toilet paper.)


What is the best walking route you would suggest for the park?

Starting at Santa Clara Street, walk north through Arena Green and take in all the ways people are exercising (running, biking, doing laps on the lawns). There’s great views of the Guadalupe River Park and Los Gatos Creek, as well as the buildings and signage around Little Italy. Then I would recommend walking along the east side of the River Park under the train tracks to a great overlook where you can see the river, Coleman Avenue, and the designed river trail path. Keep walking north under Coleman Ave to see a mural by Lacey Bryant and J.Duh (San Jose artists), switch back along Coleman over the river and take a stroll of the Guadalupe Gardens, particularly the Heritage Rose Garden right now.

For those with more time, I would then make my way to the River Trail, taking the lower trail north for as long as you want. Periodically, stop and listen, as you’ll start hearing an orchestra of birds and amphibians.

What’s so unique about the Guadalupe River Park is that it is a wild river through the heart of downtown San Jose. Much like downtown, the river is authentic in its role as a natural corridor and community connector.


What will change for the park from April to May and June?

The park will persevere. Spring will come with summer. Fish are spawning, we will see ducklings soon, caterpillars will turn into moths. The flowers will continue to bloom, and if we are expecting evolving degrees of social distancing, park and trail usage will continue to increase.