Community activists exemplify the saying, “think global, act local.” Pat Toombs, a resident of rural Santa Clara County, embodies this maxim. Her work demonstrates how Green Foothills’ partnerships with local communities stop sprawl development and protect crucial habitat.
Pat and her husband Larry live west of Gilroy along Uvas Creek, in an area where farmlands meet hillside woodlands and wildlife habitat. She and her other neighbors were dismayed when nearby Thousand Trails RV campground bought undeveloped habitat and proposed a large expansion next to the creek. The development of the ten-acre parcel could damage Uvas Creek with its threatened steelhead salmon population and would drive off a mountain lion mother that was photographed with her kitten on the land.
For years, Green Foothills has been concerned about intense levels of development in rural areas, particularly because California laws allow campgrounds to be turned into high-density permanent housing developments in areas without appropriate services. With limited exceptions for farmworker housing, we support building more housing, including affordable housing, within cities and near downtowns and transit centers, not in rural areas.
Essential Allies in Reform
Together with Pat and others living nearby, we supported changes to County rules to stop new or expanded RV campgrounds in inappropriate areas, and additionally to stop this new campground expansion. In a strong victory for the environment, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors voted for these improved rules.
Pat and the local community she helped activate were essential allies in getting reforms in place and protecting the area. Their help is still needed as litigation by the corporate owner of the RV park is still ongoing, but for now the land is safe from the RV park’s development proposal.
Additionally, Pat has become involved in other conservation efforts, avidly supporting the successful protection of Coyote Valley. Pat’s involvement in protecting nature in her neighborhood has expanded to supporting protection for nature throughout the County.
While continuing to enjoy retirement in her rural community, Pat also volunteers at the San Martin Animal Shelter. Whether getting stray kittens ready for adoption or helping a mother mountain lion keep her kitten safe, we salute Pat’s activism and look forward to continuing to work together.