Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cupertino's Blackberry: a farm in the city

After last week's 100-mile race on the Western States trail, it felt good to stay in town and enjoy a long and festive weekend in Cupertino (for the ones who don't have time to read the text below, feel free to jump to my Picasa album!).

This Saturday morning I joined 20 or so of my fellow club mates of Cupertino's Stevens Creek Striders running club, for our weekly run and group meeting at Stevens Creek Park at 8:30 am. It was an opportunity to thank them for volunteering at Last Chance, the aid station at mile 43 of the Western States Endurance Run. When I served as the Captain of the aid station 5 years ago, we were happy when getting 30 volunteers up there. This year, 50 motivated souls showed up, which provided plenty of very personalized and attentionate support to runners thoughout the day (the station sees about 350 runners from 11:30 am to 5 pm). They were not all from the Striders, but also from our friend clubs: the San Jose Fit, and PARC from Palo Alto. Our President, Peter, will soon post his pictures of last weekend on the website; in the meantime, here is the group one:
On my way back home (15 easy miles this morning), I ran by McClellan Ranch and remembered it was the grand opening of Blackberry Farm today. I made a detour by the renovated place, on the brand new paved trail, and got the program for the rest of the day. Just in time to get a shower and come back for the festivities. I am a big user of the nearby trails so I was happy to take part of this additional dedication, three weeks after the ones down the Stevens Creek, in Mountain View (check the link for my other blog post and photo coverage).

What a nice way for Cupertino to celebrate Independence Day, by inviting all its citizens to such a joyful celebration, including a free (and delicious!) barbeque and drink for all. Before we could get in the long line for the buffet, we listened to several speeches about the history of the area, the background of this renovation project, from the early visionaries to all the people who made it happen. Overall, everybody highlighted the uniqueness of this project and how Cupertino manages to remain connected to its original natural roots. Cupertino has only been established since 1955 and is taking sustainable development very seriously. Like many other inhabitants, I originally picked this city of the Bay Area for its exceptional school district (we initially came for two years, from France, in 1998, and wanted the best public schools for our boys); but this connection to the environment and this social responsibility formed additional reasons for us to settle here (we moved to three places in 11 years, all in Cupertino!).
While I was photgraphing the old ads on the benches, I met a very nice couple who was touched by the historical references to Cupertino's past. They moved to Cupertino 50 years ago, after living in San Francisco then Mountain View. Of course they acknowledged all the changes which happened to this city which grew from a few hundreds to 50,000 people in 50 years, but they were happy to see a nice respect for the past in this project. Like Mark Linder, Director of Parks and Recreation, City of Cupertino, concluded: "I am happy to give you back the Old and New Blackberry Farm!" In addition to selected names who have been instrumental to this project, all the speakers also noted the social responsibility of the Cupertino residents who voted for a "self-tax" to support this project. Way to go Cupertino!

For lunch, I joined Patrick Kwok whom I know from Church (Saint Joseph of Cupertino) and assembly member, Paul Fong. I told them about my love of the trails and thanked them for their critical support of these renovation projects. (Patrick Kwok on the left in this picture and Paul Fong in the background.)
In addition to offering the food, the City had contracted a great band, The Groove Kings (, who covered a variety of songs and got quite a few people moving, in the shade of the huge trees.
I stopped by the booths of the few partner associations which provide invaluable support to the restoration and maintenance of the Stevens Creek and the associated trail which I enjoy so much for training.
  1. Of course the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail, whom I covered in my June post (and please consider joining me for their Trailblazer 5 or 10K run the last weekend of September);
  2. The City of Cupertino working on the Stevens Creek Restoration Park Project, with a short term goal of continuing the trail down to Stevens Creek Boulevard (after that it will take 4 cities and a lot of financial suport to find a solution to connect the trail to the existing Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View: Cupertino, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Mountain View);
  3. The Cupertino Historical Society and Museum;
  4. The SPCWC (Stevens and Permanente Creeks Watershed Council) who is actively looking to recruit volunteers to conduct its water quality monitoring, habitat restoration, macroinvertebrate study and streamkeepers programs.
I am so grateful to benefit from such an ecosystem, right in my backyard, and thankful to all the volunteers who dedicate their time to not only maintain the delicate balance with the surrounding habitat, but make the extra effort to actually restore it to its original state, as much as it is possible in this urbanized environment. Like Bob Power, Executive Director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, said: "rare are the cities which, like Cupertino, have the chance to still have water running through its original creeks." The original settlers who stopped by the area and gave their name to the creeks and today's main roads would certainly be astonished at how the city is now developed but, if they would visit the renovated Blackberry Farm, they would not be completely lost. We can all be proud of that, the ability to find the right balance between a most advanced economical environment and our past natural and agriculture roots: the bridge between the Valley of Heart's Delight and the Silicon Valley...
Although no details were provided in the speeches, I'm sure the Rotary club of Cupertino played a strong role in making this restoration project possible, providing financial support and engaging the community, starting with children. As usual (my father has been a Rotarian has is life in France), discretion but efficiency!

Tonight I'm going to a party organized by a Strider, another Cupertino resident, whose house oversees all the Bay so we can look at all the fireworks at once! Enjoy the rest of your celebration of Independence Day (or your weekend for the non American readers)!

Again, see my Picasa photo album for more pictures of today's celebration but, in the meantime, here is a quick overview of the celebration.

Cupertino Mayor, Hon. Orrin Mahoney, giving a nice address covering both the Independence Day and the Grand Blackberry Farm Re-Opening. I thought he did a very nice job of giving credit to previous City officials. I am always concerned about politics having short term views and it is nice to see such multi-term projects coming to light, another nice demonstration of social responsibility!When you enter the farm, you will go through a small plaza around the wind mill, with half dozen wood benches. Each has two copies of old ads for local fruits produces on its sides. Unlike the famous French Fries and French Vanilla, among many other irrelevant uses of the French adjective, maybe these prunes were actually from France originally! ;-)
The Stevens Creek running through Blackberry Farm:
The Chefs of the day, serving hundreds of Cupertino residents:
Let's rock'n roll!
A long line for the BBQ, but the food was worth the wait!


Anonymous said...

Très sympathique (y compris le clin d'oeil à Papa!)
A mercredi

Anonymous said...

Hi Jean,

I'm Debi Jamison, Steve Patt's wife, and head volunteer at the Stevens Creek 50K. Thanks for the coverage of the BF opening. I've been working for many years as a conservation advocate trying to make this project as ecologically sound as possible. I work with Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (environmental activist committee) and with the Stevens and Permanente Creeks Watershed Council. It's been a long, hard road, but we think the project turned out pretty well for wildlife. Over 7500 native plants were planted in the riparian and upland areas, and around the pools and other recreational areas. The creek was realigned, widened, and provided with pools and riffles for steelhead trout (threatened species) and other fish and aquatic life. The birds will benefit by having a multi-layered ecosystem instead of just the big trees (with hundreds of people, cars, and blacktop beneath them). I do an annual bird survey along this section of the creek, and am looking forward to seeing an increase in biodiversity.

If you are not already a SCVAS member, why not join?? Stop by McClellan Ranch sometime during the nature store's open hours get a copy of the latest Avocet. We do a lot of good work in education, advocacy, and just enjoying birds and nature through field trips and programs.

By the way, your blog on BF was distributed to the Stocklmeir Task Force mailing list. Stocklmeir is the next phase of the Stevens Creek corridor project, and as usual, there are some contentious issues and a lot of work to do to make it all happen.



Jean Pommier said...

Thank you for visiting and leaving feedback and news, Debi!
And thank you for all your support in preserving the nature side of this wonderful valley.
I run by McClellan Ranch from time to time, I'll stop by next time, promised!