The Coyote-Alamitos Canal

View of canal trail from hill by Cottle Road in undeveloped Century Oaks Park
Coyote-Alamitos Canal from Century Oaks Park by Cottle Road

ST Hills




Bay Area Back Pages

Bay Area Biking

Bay Area Hiking



NOTE: These pages are under continual construction, so check back frequently for updates.


Legal disclaimer: The Coyote-Alamitos Canal is not a trail. In many places, it is private property, and usage of it is trespassing. You could be arrested or sued. This Website is not intended to encourage trespassing, only to inform the public of the issues involved.

The Coyote-Alamitos Canal cuts along the lower reaches of the Santa Teresa Hills, with gravel-paved maintenance roads along the canal levees. The canal was built to carry water from the Coyote Canal along Coyote Creek to Alamitos Creek and the Guadalupe percolation basin in the Almaden Valley, but is now rarely used for this purpose. It serves as a winter stormwater culvert, but is dry for most of the year. The levee roads follow the canal starting from the east side of Tulare Hill, near Monterey Highway and the Coyote Creek Trail. The canal runs along Tulare Hill, crosses under Santa Teresa Blvd. at the entrance to the Coyote Valley, then runs along the Santa Teresa Hills almost all the way to Lake Almaden. The level maintenance roads look like they would provide ideal hiking and walking trails, but they are not continuous, and they are not officially open to the public. The Santa Clara Valley Water District has an easement to use the canal, but most of the property under and around the canal is private. 

In some places near private property, the canal is posted and fenced off. However, in many places, there are no fences and no signs, so people can frequently be seen walking their dogs, jogging, or biking along these sections of the levee roads, even though they are technically trespassing.

The levee trail along the Coyote-Alamitos Canal has the potential to become one of the best in the Bay Area. Throughout its length, it has great views of the hills and valley. It will be one of the most important trails, as it will link and provide neighborhood access to  several very important trail systems. It serves a neighborhood containing more people and businesses than any other single trail in the South Bay. Because so many people live and work near it, it will most certainly become one of the most popular trails in the Bay Area. The sections below discuss the canal route, the benefits of turning it into a public trail, and the steps required to do so.

The map below is a topographic map that shows the route of the canal along the Santa Teresa Hills:

Map from TOPO! Copyright 1997 Wildflower Productions (


Photo Tour of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Route:
  Start of the canal
  Santa Teresa Park
  Cottle Road
  Snell Avenue
  End of the canal
  Los Alamitos-Calero Creek Trail
  Return to Santa Teresa Park
The Value of Recreational Trails
Benefits of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail
Making the Trail a Reality
My Creek

Photo Tour of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Route

The photos below provide a tour of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Route. It shows the potential trail and the other trail that it could link up to .  (Note: Click on the thumbnails below to see larger pictures.)

Coyote Creek

The story of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal begins at Coyote Creek. Coyote Creek is the longest creek in Santa Clara County. It starts high in the mountains of Henry Coe State Park. It is dammed and controlled along the way. Its waters are impounded in Coyote Lake Reservoir and Anderson Reservoir, then in a series of percolation ponds in the mostly-rural Coyote Valley. It runs past Coyote Hellyer County Park and Kelly Park. It runs through downtown San Jose and Milpitas, eventually flowing into San Francisco Bay north of Alviso. Along Coyote Creek runs the Coyote Creek Parkway. It's a multi-use trail route that has paved paths for bikes and skaters and dirt paths for equestrians. The parkway runs for some 15 miles from Anderson Lake County Park to Coyote Hellyer County Park. The heavily-used paved bike path is one of the longest and best in the Bay Area. Along the way, it passes by parks, a model airplane field, golf courses, fishing lakes, horse ranches, farms, homes, and rapidly-developing industrial parks. See here for more on the Coyote Creek trail.
Coyote Creek Golf Club Water ski pond north of Metcalf Road Coyote Creek Trail north of Metcalf Road Cottonwood Lake, Hellyer County Park

 The Coyote Creek Trail is a great recreational resource, but for those who live in the Santa Teresa Area, it is not an easily reachable one. Main access points at Silver Creek Valley Blvd. and Silicon Valley Blvd. require traveling along a busy road and passing by a dangerous and unappealing gauntlet of freeway on-ramps and off-ramps. 

Freeways and ramps along Silicon Valley Blvd. south of Coyote Creek

Silicon Valley Blvd. and  Hwy 101 west of Coyote Creek

Start of the Canal by Monterey Highway

The Coyote-Alamitos Canal starts just above Monterey Highway near its intersection with Metcalf Road on the northeast corner of Tulare Hill. The Coyote Creek Trail crosses Metcalf Road. Metcalf Road itself crosses over Coyote Creek just before it intersects with Monterey Highway. At the intersection with Monterey Highway is a pedestrian crossing light that allow safe passage to the Tulare Hill side of the road. To reach the start of the canal would require a railroad crossing and a ramp up the side of the hill. Just south of here on Monterey highway is the tiny rural town of Coyote. On the south side of Tulare Hill, not far from here, are the proposed Metcalf Energy Center and Cisco's Coyote Valley campus.
Railroad tracks between Monterey Hwy and Tulare Hill. The start of the canal is up on the hillside Closer view of the canal start on the hillside above the railroad tracks.

Canal Along Tulare Hill

The canal wraps around the north side of Tulare Hill behind Pegasus Court and Way, Tulare Hill Lane and Road, Coburn Court, Cheltenham Way, and Bayliss Place. There are few fences blocking access to the canal, but there are signs along the canal warning against trespassing. The canal dives underground to run under a shallow valley on the southwest slope of Tulare Hill. A trail along here would probably have to be cut into the hillside to run in and out of this the valley.
View east along canal at Tulare Hill Lane View northeast along canal above Cheltenham Way near Cheltenham Court View southwest along canal above Cheltenham Way looking towards Coyote Peak

Canal on Either Side of Santa Teresa Blvd.

The canal ends at a gate on Santa Teresa Blvd. It runs in a tunnel under Santa Teresa and reappears on the other side. It then begins to run along the base of the southeast end of the Santa Teresa Hills behind Bayliss Drive and the small streets that branch off it. This is the only place along the canal route where the canal crosses a major road, where a safe crossing may require a traffic light. On Manresa Court, it runs behind the Laguna Seca Community Garden. Shortly after this, the canal enters the east corner of Santa Teresa Park. 
Canal northeast of Santa Teresa Blvd. Canal southwest of Santa Teresa Blvd. Laguna Seca Community Garden below canal

Canal Views from Santa Teresa Park Above the Archery Range

On Bayliss Drive is the entrance to the archery range in Santa Teresa Park. The range is used by the Black Mountain Bowmen, but is open to the public. The banks of the canal levee form a backstop for the archery range. Signs on the canal levee warn against walking on it because of the danger from flying arrows. The archery range poses a significant barrier to running the canal trail through this area. However, it may be possible to detour the trail off the canal levee and down through the lower park roads. Fortunately, this is all county parkland here. Trails lead up into the hills of Santa Teresa Park here, providing the views shown below:
View of north side of Tulare Hill, with the canal running below it. View of the canal route along the Santa Teresa Hills heading northeast from the archery range View of the canal running along the south side of the archery range

Canal by and Through the Santa Teresa Golf Club

It is ironic that two of the most challenging barriers to the canal trail are in public recreational areas. The archery range above is one spot. The Santa Teresa Golf Club is another. The canal runs through the golf course and disappears underground near the back of the driving range. A dirt service runs up into the hills here, providing access to the Ohlone Trail and the steep Coyote Peak Trail. The canal is unseen, put probably runs outside the fence behind and along the south side of the driving range. Southwest of the driving range is a beautiful tree-lined pond, which was a popular picnic and fishing spot for families, but is now off-limits. A dirt road circles behind the pond, which could be used as a future trail. The canal reappears just south of the pond, then runs outside the golf course by the Laurel Springs Nature Trail. It then runs under Bernal Road. A short section of the canal levee is commonly used by hikers to access the nature trail and the Ohlone Trail from Bernal Road. While the golf course is open to the public, only golfers can walk along the canal. Bicycles are not allowed in the golf course area at all. Santa Teresa Park's hillside Ohlone Trail can be used as a bypass for foot traffic, but it is a narrow path, closed to bicycles. An alternate bicycle route needs to be designed. It may be possible to locate it at the edges of the golf course or on the lower hillside below the Ohlone Trail. Another alternative would be to put a trail along the north side of the golf course next to the boundary fence. 
Canal running through the Santa Teresa Golf Course View of the golf course and canal from the Canal entering the golf course by the Santa Teresa Park Laurel Canyon Nature Trail  Canal levee east of Bernal Road leading towards the nature trail and Ohlone Trail

Bernal Road to the Buck Norred Ranch Site

The canal run under Bernal Road, which is a two-lane road leading into Santa Teresa Park's Pueblo Day Use Area, the Muriel Wright Center, and the Almaden Research Center. The road can be busy at times, but there is more danger from bicycles speeding down the hill than from cars, which can be seen for a long distance. A crosswalk may be needed to provide a safer road crossing to the canal on the west side. This part of the canal levee is probably one of the most heavily used sections. It connects two parts of Santa Teresa Park, and there are no gates and no signs warning against trespassing. Santa Teresa Park property is above and below the canal. However, the Santa Teresa Park map and brochure clearly state that the canal is not a trail. On the other hand, they do not explicitly say that you cannot travel on it. The canal levee is narrow, well-worn, and rutted here and shows signs of erosion. It could use reinforcing. It runs above a strip of open land, but comes closer to the backyards of houses on Heaton Moor Drive as it nears the old former Buck Norred Ranch site.
The canal crossing Bernal Road at the entrance to Santa Teresa Park Canal levee west of Bernal Road, antenna-topped Coyote Peak in the background Greenbelt between the canal and the houses on Heaton Moor Drive west of Bernal Road Canal along the hills south of the Buck Norred Ranch

Norred Ranch to Santa Teresa Springs

The canal disappears underground  at the old road on the east edge of the Buck Norred Ranch site. That road climbs steeply uphill to become Santa Teresa Park's Mine Trail. The Buck Norred Ranch site is part of the park, but the old ranch buildings are off-limits. Plans are being made to put a park horse patrol here. The canal reappears again west of Brockenhurst Drive, which is an unofficial entrance to the park. An old ranch road climbs up to a stables area. The canal begins on the right side of this road. The canal entrance here has been fenced off here for years, but recently, the fencing has been enhanced to further restrict access. This was done at the request of neighbors in the area. The canal runs in the hills behind Heaton Moor, then turns right above San Ignacio and Bernal Intermediate School. The canal levee can be reached from the open field near Bernal School. Kids can often be seen riding dirt bikes through here. The canal runs behind an adobe house, which is owned by the parks district and is used for ranger housing. It then runs behind a private house and ranch. Beyond that is the Bear Tree Lot of Santa Teresa Park. The canal disappears into a siphon at Santa Teresa Springs. Another fence blocks access to the canal levee, but ruts in the hillside below it indicate that people frequently go around it.
Small creek running by the Buck Norred Ranch house Closed canal levee west of the Buck Norred Ranch View of the canal running behind Heaton Moor to San Ignacio Gate on canal east of Santa Teresa Springs

Santa Teresa Springs

The Santa Teresa Springs area is the probably the most historically significant spot in the entire Santa Teresa Hills. The springs were named after St. Teresa of Avila by Jose Joaquin Bernal, who first settled this area. (See here for more about the springs.) A ramp leads down from the canal levee to the meadow below Santa Teresa Springs. A ramp leads back up to the springs and pond. Right next to this ramp, the canal and levee begin again. The levee trail is unblocked and unposted. As it leads to the Joice-Bernal Rancho in Santa Teresa Park, it is heavily used.
Paved path below Santa Teresa Springs ends, dirt ramp leads up to the canal The pond at Santa Teresa Springs On the right, a path leads up to Santa Teresa Springs. On the left is the canal levee. Meadow between Santa Teresa Springs and the Joice-Bernal Rancho, with the canal above

Joice Bernal Rancho

The Joice-Bernal Rancho is at the corner of Camino Verde Drive and Manila Drive, a couple blocks west of Santa Teresa Springs. The ranch is being restored to become a museum and interpretive center. The canal ends at a siphon at the edge of the Joice Trail, which is a steep ranch road that climbs up into the hills at the west edge of the park. To the west of the Joice Trail is a gully and drain. Next to that is the ranch caretaker's house that is being restored as a park residence. Behind the caretaker's house, the canal begins again. A steep informal path up the brush-covered embankment behind the house leads to the canal levee. The canal leaves park property just past the Joice Bernal Rancho, running behind homes on Manila Drive and Brookmere Driven, then enters Century Oaks Park near Cottle Road.
Canal levee above the Joice-Bernal Rancho End of the canal above the barn View of the barn and farmhouse from the canal Canal levee behind the caretaker's house

Views of the Canal From the Joice Trail

The Joice Trail begins across a ravine from the old caretaker's house. It runs nearly straight up a steep hill before turning south to climb more gently along the hillside. Near its junction with the Vista Loop Trail, a PG&E power line service road branches off from it and heads towards the power towers at the western boundary of the park. The Joice Trail and associated trails provide excellent views of the canal, the hills, and the entire Bay Area on clear days. 
Looking across a ravine from Joice Trail at the old caretaker's house. The canal is in the trees behind the house  Canal runs along the base of the hills, with open land below it at the ends of Oberlin Way, Matthew Court, Brookmere Drive, and Manila Drive View from the PG&E service road of the canal running behind Dade Court, heading towards Cottle Road. The fence marks the park boundary

 Views From Century Oaks Park at Cottle Road

Century Oaks Park is an undeveloped San Jose city park next to Cottle Road. The hill here provides good views of the hills. The Canal levee runs below the hill, but is fenced off. In the pictures below, the canal can be seen running along the hill behind the neighborhood south of Cottle. There is a private horse ranch at the end of Cottle Road. Century Oaks Park runs from Cottle Road to Galen Drive between the canal levee and the houses on Curie Drive. The land for Century Oaks Park was donated to the city of San Jose by the developer of the homes below it in exchange for being allowed to build houses on smaller than standard-sized lots. (See the top of the page for the view west.)
Canal above houses on Beckham Drive and Dade Court View of the west boundary of Santa Teresa Park at the treeline above Beckham Drive End of Cottle Road at the private horse ranch past Lovely Creek Court

Curie and Malory

Century Oaks Park has several access points on Curie Drive (see the Santa Teresa Hills page). The canal can be seen from Curie as a straight line along the hills above the houses.

People on the canal levee above houses on Curie by Malory Drive

Canal Above Century Oaks Park at Didion Way and Curie Drive

At the corner of Didion Way and Curie Drive, a trail leads up a hill to the fenced-off edge of the canal. The canal curves around the side of the hill. Views of the canal and neighborhood are shown below:
View of the canal behind the fence at the top of the hill at Didion and Curie View of the canal to the right of the hill View over Didion Way, canal running above Weybridge Drive

Galen Drive to Snell Avenue

At Galen Drive, the Century Oaks Park property ends. A fenced-off ramp leads up to the canal levee. Signs warn against trespassing and using this to reach the canal. The canal runs above the houses on Mindy Way and goes under Snell Avenue.
Fenced off ramp leading up to the canal by the end of Century Oaks Park off Galen Drive past Elder Court Canal above houses on Mindy Way east of Snell Avenue

Canal at Either Side of Snell Avenue

Snell Avenue becomes a gated private road at the Coyote-Alamitos Canal. The road leads up to a private cattle ranch. Cattle can be frequently seen grazing on the hills in this area. The canal to the left is fenced off with some serious "No Trespassing" signs. The canal to the right only has a vehicle gate blocking the levee. Walkers and bicyclists can easily go around it. Until the spring of 2000, there were no "No Trespassing" signs. A dog-shooting incident in the hills above here late in 1999 probably caused the signs to go up (see the news section).
Gate and fence on canal levee east of Snell Avenue Private ranch road at the end of Snell Avenue Levee and gate west of Snell Avenue

Canal Above Coyote-Alamitos Canal Park at Snell and Colleen

At the corner of Snell Avenue and Colleen is a wooden fence with a pedestrian pass-through opening. It indicates that this plot of hillside land is a city park. It is the undeveloped Coyote-Alamitos Canal Park. A well-worn unofficial dirt path leads straight up the hill to the Coyote-Alamitos Canal. Many people obviously use this to access the canal levee. Though there are no fences preventing access, there are (or were) "No Trespassing" signs at the side of the levee. People may not realize that the city park property ends at the canal levee. (These pictures were taken from the city park property at the edge of the canal levee.) Views looking down from the top edge of the park demonstrate one major advantage that the canal offers over other water district creek trails: a great view.
Fence at entrance to Coyote-Alamitos Canal Park, path leads up to canal View from just below the canal of the intersection of Colleen and Snell View from the top of the hill, canal running to the left towards Snell Canal running west above Colleen

Shadelands to Blossom Avenue 

Near Blossom Avenue, a broad open field allows access to the hillside below the canal. A steep unofficial dirt footpath leads up the hill to the unfenced canal. Signs next to the canal warn that no trespassing is allowed, however.
People on canal above houses on Colleen Drive by Shadelands Drive View from top of hill above Colleen near Blossom Avenue Canal leading east from hill above Blossom and Colleen

Rocky Glen Court to Cahalan Avenue

There is a small gap between houses at Rocky Glen Court. There is a driveway leading up to it. This could allow future access to the canal, but it is probably private property. Just west of here, Cahalan Avenue runs past Foothill Park, then climbs up the base of the hill right to the edge of the canal levee. Here is a fence and  locked gate with "No Trespassing" signs. There is also an "Adopt-a-Creek" sign, indicating creek cleanup volunteers may have access to the canal. Peering through the fence, a small bridge crosses the canal and a road, blocked by another locked gate, leads up into the hills.
Canal above houses and open land above Rocky Glen Court Closed gate to the canal at the end of Cahalan Avenue Canal levee, bridge over canal, road leading into the hills past Cahalan

Foothill Park to the End of the Canal at Miracle Mountain Drive

Foothill Park is a San Jose city park at Cahalan Avenue and Foothill Drive. The park leads up to the top of a small hill. Below the park, the canal can be seen, but a recently-repaired fence separates the park from the levee. The canal runs behind Foothill Drive. There are a number of open lots at the end of culdesacs and gaps between houses along the base of the Santa Teresa Hills in this area. They are on private property. Most are posted. These could provide future access points to the canal. However, they are starting to disappear as houses are being built on the larger lots. (see the News on the homepage.) There is a paved and gated service road leading up to the canal opposite Hillrose Drive. The water district signs warn against trespassing. The Coyote-Alamitos Canal ends at Miracle Mountain Drive. A steep hillside and condominium complexes block further access to the west. There are informal paths through the hillside. Residents of the condominium complexes can pass through to reach Winfield Blvd. At the end of Winfield Blvd. is the entrance to Almaden Lake Park
Canal running up to the base of Foothill Park View from Foothill Park of canal running behind Foothill Drive Hills and canal above the end of the culdesac at Rolling Glen Court Hills and canal above Foothill Court
Small gap leading to the canal between houses on Foothill Drive east of Sanford Drive  Gated paved service road ramp leading to the canal on Foothill Drive by Hillrose Drive End of canal by hill at the end of Miracle Mountain Drive Apartment and condo complexes at the west side of the end of Miracle Mountain Drive

Lake Almaden and the Los Alamitos-Calero Creek Trail

Along Lake Almaden runs the Los Alamitos-Calero Creek Trail. The heavily-used  trail runs north past lake Almaden, runs under Coleman Avenue to the Almaden Light Rail Station along the waterway that becomes the Guadalupe River. It then passes by the headquarters of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, goes under Blossom Hill Road, and currently ends at percolation ponds north of Hwy 85. Future plans call for extending the trail all the way to the Guadalupe River Park in downtown San Jose, where it joins up with the Los Gatos Creek Trail and will run all the way to the San Francisco Bay Trail at Alviso. Lake Almaden is a popular city park with a swimming beach, playground, boat docks, and picnic grounds. Trails run around the lake. The Los Alamitos-Calero Creek Trail runs south from Lake Almaden into the Almaden Valley. Even though it's surrounded by suburban housing tracts, it still provides a natural experience and is good for bird-watching. It's a popular trail for bicycling, skating, jogging, and dog-walking. Even though the trail is down in the valley, it is a part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The trail splits at the confluence of Calero and Alamitos Creeks. One leg follows Alamitos Creek to McKean Road, while the other leg follows Calero Creek to Harry Road, near the entrance to IBM's Almaden Research Center. 
(See here for more information about the Almaden Valley's watershed.)
View across Lake Almaden of the west end of the Santa Teresa Hills The headquarters of the Santa Clara Valley Water District west of the Guadalupe River The Los Alamitos-Calero Creek Trail near Mazzone Drive heading south along Alamitos Creek  Harry Road near the entrance to IBM's Almaden Research Center

The Calero Creek Trail to Santa Teresa Park

South of Harry Road, the Calero Creek Trail continues as a dirt path along Calero Creek next to an orchard on IBM property. This orchard was the focus of a recent proposed controversial development that was turned down. The trail runs between the orchard and tree-shaded Calero Creek. It turns and crosses Santa Teresa Creek, follows along the edge of the hillsides which are owned by IBM, then reaches the Stile Ranch/Fortini Trailheads at Santa Teresa County Park. The Fortini Trail is the easier of the two trails. It branches to the right and parallels Fortini Road, gently climbing into the heart of Santa Teresa Park, eventually ending at the parking lot of the Pueblo Day Use Area.
The Calero Creek Trail by the orchard on IBM property Santa Teresa Creek crossing the Calero Creek Trail The Calero Creek Trail below IBM The Fortini Trail  leading to the Almaden Valley

The Stile Ranch Trail

The spectacular Stile Ranch Trail, lined with brilliant wildflowers in the spring, is one of the best trails in Santa Teresa Park. It is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  It runs through an easement provided by IBM through their property. The trail zigzags up a steep, rocky hillside on switchbacks. It runs down and up two valleys, then joins the Mine Trail. Both the Fortini Trail and Stile Ranch Trail can be used to pass through Santa Teresa Park to reach the Santa Teresa side of the hills. Other trails run down the hills and cross the Coyote-Alamitos Canal, allowing for a complete loop trip around most of the Santa Teresa Hills.
The Stile Ranch Trail leading up the hill above San Felipe Avenue  Flowers lining the Stile Ranch Trail The Stile Ranch Trail switchbacks, looking towards the Almaden Valley

The Value of Recreational Trails

In a 1995 publication by the National Parks Service, ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF PROTECTING RIVERS, TRAILS, AND GREENWAY CORRIDORS, the following facts were brought out:

  • Natural open space and trails are prime attractions for potential home buyers in 1995. According to research conducted by American Lives, Inc. for the real estate industry, 77.7 per cent of all home buyers and shoppers in the study rated natural open space as either “essential” or “very important” in planned communities. Walking and bicycling paths ranked third.
  • A study of property values near greenbelts in Boulder, Colorado, noted that housing prices declined an average of $4.20 for each foot of distance from a greenbelt up to 3,200 feet. In one neighborhood, this figure was $10.20 for each foot of distance. The same study determined that, other variables being equal, the average value of property adjacent to the greenbelt would be 32 percent higher than those 3,200 feet away.
  • In a recent study, The Impacts of Rail-Trails, landowners along three rail-trails reported that their proximity to the trails had not adversely affected the desirability or values of their properties. Along the suburban Lafayette/Moraga Trail in California, the majority of the owners felt that the trail would make their properties sell more easily and at increased values.
  • In a survey of adjacent landowners along the Luce Line rail-trail in Minnesota, the majority of owners (87 percent) believed the trail increased or had no effect on the value of their property.
  • A land developer from Front Royal, Virginia, donated a 50 footwide seven-mile easement for the Big Blue Trail in northern Virginia after volunteers from the Potomac Appalachian Club approached him to provide a critical trail link along the perimeter of his second-home subdivision. The developer recognized the amenity value of the trail and advertised that the trail would cross approximately 50 parcels. All tracts were sold within four months.
  • Thirty-five acres was set aside as a protected corridor through a 71-lot subdivision for approximately one-half mile of the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. The Ice Age Trail Foundation had purchased the parcel when the land became available for sale and was being considered for development. Later the Foundation sold the parcel to a subdivision developer, after placing an easement on the trail corridor. The developer now touts the easy access to the Ice Age Trail in promotional subdivision brochures.
  • Trail users of three rail-trails generated a total economic impact of over $1.2 million for each trail, according to the recent study, The Impacts of Rail-Trails. These trails were used mostly by people living nearby who visited frequently. “Users spent an average of $9.21, $11.02, and $3.97 per person per day as a result of their trail visits to the Heritage, St. Marks, and Lafayette/Moraga Trails respectively.”
  • Maryland’s North Central Rail Trail, a 20-mile corridor through Baltimore County has become quite popular in the last few years. Use of the trail increased from 10,000 visitors in 1984 to 450,000 in 1993. The trail supports approximately 264 jobs statewide. Goods purchased in 1993 for uses related to the North Central Rail Trail were valued at over $3.38 million.
  • The American River Bike Trail in Sacramento, California, is included as an important outdoor recreation amenity in the Chamber of Commerce’s publication All About Business in Sacramento. It is described as a 30 mile oasis in the heart of the city. The President of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Roy Brewer, considers the trail to be evidence of the high quality of life in Sacramento, as well as one of Sacramento’s treasures.
  • Businesses are realizing the benefits of healthy employees, both in increased efficiency and decreased health insurance claims. Greenways help promote fitness by providing convenient opportunities for exercise, such as walking, jogging, or exercise courses...A study of a group of employees in San Jose, California, showed that those who exercised regularly had 14 percent lower medical claims, 30 percent fewer hospital days, and 41 percent fewer claims greater than $5,000.
  • Greenways and trails also help reduce firms’ employees’ commuting costs because they provide opportunities to commute by foot or bicycle. More than 4 million adult Americans used a bicycle (at least occasionally) to commute to work or school during 1993.
  • For every mile a person walks or runs, they will save society 24 cents per mile in medical and other costs.
  • Recreation activities involving exercise reduce health care costs. People who exercise regularly have 14 percent lower claims against their medical insurance, spend 30 percent fewer days in the hospital, and have 41 percent fewer claims greater than $5,000. These figures were taken from a Corporate Wellness Study for the city of San Jose, Department of Recreation, in 1988.
  • Exercise derived from recreational activities lessens health related problems and subsequent health care costs. Every year, premature deaths cost American companies an estimated 132 million lost work days at a price tag of $25 billion. Finding and training replacements costs industry more than $700 million each year. In addition, American businesses lose an estimated $3 billion every year because of employee health problems.
Another National Parks Publication, THE IMPACTS OF RAIL-TRAILS - A Study of User and Property Owners From Three Trails described the results of a study of 3 trails, one of which was here in the Bay Area, Lafayette/Moraga Trail. Some of the findings and conclusions are listed below:
  • The vast majority of landowners were trail users and visited the trails frequently. 
  • The majority of owners reported that there had been no increase in problems since the trails had been established, that living near the trails was better than they had expected it to be, and that living near the trails was better than living near unused railroad lines before the trails had been constructed. Although owners along the Heritage Trail were the least positive and those along the Lafayette/Moraga the most positive, the majority sampled along each trail was satisfied with having the trail as a neighbor. 
  • The vast majority of real estate professional interviewed felt that the trails had no negative effect on property sales and no effect on property values adjacent to or near the trails. However, those who felt the trails increased property values outnumbered those reporting decreased values. 
  • Trail users and landowners alike reported that the trails benefitted their communities in many ways. Health and fitness and recreation opportunities were considered to be the most important benefits of the trails by the landowners. The trail users felt the trails were most important in providing health and fitness, aesthetic beauty, and undeveloped open space. 
  • Rail-trails can provide a wide range of benefits to users, local landowners, and trail communities. They are not single use, single benefit resources. Residents and visitors enjoy the benefits of trail use, esthetic beauty, protected open space, and in some instances higher property resale values, while local communities enjoy bolstered economies and increased community pride among other benefits.
  • The study rail-trails were found to have a dedicated core of users who visited frequently and were committed to "their" trails. This finding represents an opportunity for managers of existing trails and planners of new trails to tap into a potentially rich source of trail supporters and volunteers for assistance on a number of appropriate planning and management activities.
The Maryland Greenways Commission published a report, Analysis of economic impacts of the Northern Central Rail Trail. Here are some conclusions from that report:

     Based upon our analysis, we are of the opinion that the Northern
     Central Rail Trail (NCRT) provides a number of substantial economic
     and qualitative benefits to the people of Maryland.  Perhaps the most
     significant economic finding of this study is that while the 1993
     budget to provide the Trail to the public was $191,893, the direct
     economic inputs to the State via tax revenue alone were $303,750. 
     Additionally, we estimate the Trail supports 264 jobs statewide.  The
     value of goods purchased because of the NCRT for 1993 is estimated to
     total in excess of $3,380,000.

     The attractiveness and demand for use of the Trail can best be
     illustrated by the tremendous growth in the Trail's use, from under
     10,000 visitors per annum in 1984 to over 450,000 in 1993 - equating
     to a compound annual attendance growth rite of 53 percent per year. 
     Coinciding with this expression of interest were a number of key
     survey findings, such as:

  • 93.72 percent of the survey respondents felt the Northern Central Rail Trail is a good use of State funds.
  • Two-thirds of respondents liked greenways better than traditional, more confined parks.
  • Over 95 percent of respondents view the Trail as an asset to their community.
  • Less than 2 percent of respondents felt unsafe on the Trail. 
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents felt the trail enhances nearby property values.
     The NCRT is clearly recognized by residents as an asset for the
     region, especially the local community.  As the survey findings
     demonstrate, nearly 100 percent of the Trail's users come from
     Baltimore County, and as a percentage of Trail users nearly 80 percent
     use the Trail at least once per week.

The concern about the possible increase in crime along public trails is often a concern raised by opponents. Most studies have shown that this is not true. Here are some excerpts from a letter from the Chief of Police in South Burlington Vermont, which is typical of the experience of most communities along public trails:

  • According to official records of the Burlington Police Department there were 71 police responses to the Burlington Bike Path during the 27 months ending Jun 30, 1991...The bike path in Burlington, therefore, is the scene of .0013% of all calls over the last two years, making it one of the safest places in Burlington, according to Chief Kevin Scully. 
  • I reviewed the patrol strategy of the Burlington Police Department and found that most of the patrol is done on bikes by non-police personnel who work in a summer program that existed before the path and is not an expensive proposition. These patrols are primarily a communication link to regular officers who also occasionally do bike patrol themselves. 
  • The Stowe Police do no routine patrolling of the Stowe Bike Path. The police department says that the path has made Stowe safer as pedestrians and cyclists do not have to be on Route 108 with the heavy traffic. 
  • There has been no increase in crime in Burlington or Stowe which is attributable to the bike paths. 
  • My position is that bike paths proposed for Chittendon County communities provide a healthy way of linking neighborhoods and are likely to have a positive affect on the overall safety of the public. 
  • Crime and the fear of crime do not flourish in an environment of high energy and healthy interaction among law abiding community members. Thus, the quality of life is enhanced in several ways including the enhancement of individual physical fitness, a safer mode of transportation for cyclists and pedestrians and the potential for less crime overall in the communities.
  • In terms of public safety a system of bike paths for the county is a great idea. 
The Office of Greenways & Trails of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has a Web page on Greenways. Here are some excerpts from it relating to crime on trails:
  • Even though there has been no documented increase in criminal activity on greenways, crime is almost always a concern. In Greenways for America, Charles Little cites the example of Seattle's Burke-Gilman Trail. Police officers who patrolled the trail were interviewed about problems with crime and vandalism. Their response was that "there is not a greater incidence of burglaries and vandalism of homes along the trail." The police noted that problems in parks are generally confined to areas of easy motor vehicle access. 
  • Despite fears that greenways will be used by "outsiders," it's usually the local citizens who use the path. Merely opening a greenway to public use may in fact discourage unsavory activities in derelict areas. Crime is discouraged because access to the trail is controlled compared to pre-trail access, and the large numbers of friendly and observant trail users who act as volunteer police that report suspicious activity. 
  • Trails naturally encourage "crime-watch" activity. In Long Beach, California, a 3.1 mile trail along a stretch of urban waterfront, known for its significant population of transients, reported reduced crime in the area as a result of the trail. The reduction was attributed by local citizens using the trail (Joe Chesler, Port of Long Beach, personal interview, 1989). 
  • A 1988 survey of greenways in several states has found that such parks typically have not experienced serious problems regarding vandalism, crime, trespass, or invasion of privacy. Prior to developing park facilities, these concerns were strongly voiced in opposition to proposed trails. After park development, however, it was found that fears did not materialize and concerns expressed by the neighbors opposed to the trail have not proven to be a post-development  problem in any of the parks (A Feasibility Study for Proposed Linear Park, Oregon DOT, 1988).
  • Finally, a 1980 study by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources compared landowners' attitudes on a pair of proposed trails with landowner attitudes along a pair of similar trails already established. On the proposed trails, 75 percent of landowners thought that if a trail was constructed it would mean more vandalism and other crimes. By contrast, virtually no landowners

  • along two constructed trails (0% and 6% respectively), agreed with the statement that "trail-users steal" (American Greenways Fact Sheet: Crime and Vandalism, no date). 

Benefits of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail

To summarize, here are some of the benefits to the community of Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail.

  • The increased opportunities for exercise can improve the health and well-being of the community.
  • The trail can save lives. It can provide a safe, easily-accessible recreational trail for thousands of users in South San Jose. Joggers and bicyclists would be taken off the streets, which can reduce accidents with vehicles and their ensuing lawsuits. 
  • It can join and provide access to the Coyote Creek Trail, Santa Teresa Park, and the Alamitos-Calero Creek Trails. These in turn provide links to many city and county parks. In the future, there will be links to Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, the Los Gatos Creek Trail, the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and the San Francisco Bay Trail.
  • It has one major advantage over any other Water District creekside trail in Santa Clara County: a great view of the surrounding area.
  • It can provide for an off-road trail loop through the Almaden Valley and Santa Teresa area, running through Santa Teresa Park, along the Calero and Alamitos Creek Trails, and back along the canal.
  • It can help to reduce traffic, pollution, and traffic accidents by providing a safe commute route for non-vehicular commuters to businesses and schools in Santa Teresa, the Almaden Valley, IBM's sites, Edenvale, and the Coyote Valley.
  • It can help reduce crime and vandalism and prevent fires by providing a vantage point for neighborhood watch volunteers to keep an eye on their neighborhoods. 
  • It will make official and legal a de facto recreational trail that is already used by many people, but is currently without trail rules, regular patrols, or maintenance. The lack of such rules may have directly contributed to the dog shooting in the hills.
  • Juveniles bent on mischief and vandalism like to go to places where they will not be seen by adults. The current off-limits status of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal invites them. This may be why there are so many fires in the Santa Teresa Hills. Opening the canal such that more adults (including their parents) are frequently in the area will tend to chase these young troublemakers away.
  • The trail can be a good educational experience for schoolchildren. It is within walking distance of many schools. They can learn about the plants, animals, insects, and rocks on the hills. They can see their neighborhood from up high and learn about the local geography and history. They can help clean up the canal area and learn to respect.
  • Regular patrols can report trail and canal maintenance problems. This is important to the people who live below the canal, since it serves as a storm drain in the winter and helps protect the homes below from mudslides. Blockages of the canal by debris can happen quickly and can cause flooding, but frequent patrols by park personnel and volunteers can help report these promptly to have them cleared. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is responsible for canal maintenance, but since it is rarely used as an aqueduct, the district is not motivated to patrol it frequently.
  • Joining the trails is one of the most significant benefits of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail. Though there are many great trails in Santa Clara County, they are like isolated islands. Getting from one trail to the other often requires driving or traveling along busy city streets. Ideally, they should be joined together so users can enter at any convenient point and travel for as long as they want. Unfortunately, most of the trails follow the natural paths of creeks, which do not necessarily lend themselves to interconnecting them. The Coyote-Alamitos Canal, however, is an artificial waterway that was built to join two waterways. It is only natural and logical that it also be used to join the trails along those two waterways.

Making the Trail a Reality

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has many great trails along its waterways. These are some of the best trails in the Bay Area: the Coyote Creek Trail, Alamitos-Calero Creek Trail, Los Gatos Creek Trail, Penitencia Creek Trail, Guadalupe River Trail, Permanente Creek Trail, the awesome Stevens Creek Trail, and the up-coming San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail and Calabazas Creek Trail. The Los Gatos Creek Trail is an engineering marvel, which required expensive causeways and underpasses to squeeze the trail along parts of the creek that had no room for pedestrian traffic. Mountain View's short but gorgeous Stevens Creek Trail is a beautifully designed and landscaped trail that includes an awesome pedestrian bridge over Central Expressway. Compared to the costly and  heroic engineering feats required for these trails, the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail is a cakewalk. The trail is usable today with no further modifications, which is why it has been used illegally for years. Some improvements might be needed to help reduce erosion from heavier trail use. Paving it, however, will make it accessible to skaters and baby strollers. 

The Water District's charter includes provisions for providing recreational access to district waterways. However, while the district allows access to these facilities, it typically joins with city and county parks and recreation agencies to develop their recreational aspects. The canal, in many places, forms the boundary between San Jose City property and unincorporated Santa Clara County lands. The city boundary line runs right down the middle of the canal, which means the canal levee is mostly within the city limits. Several San Jose City Parks, including the undeveloped Century Oaks Park and Coyote-Alamitos Canal Park, run right up to the edge of the canal levee. Thus, the development of the canal levee road as a recreational trail will require a cooperative effort between San Jose, Santa Clara County, and the water district.

The main obstacle to turning the canal into a trail is probably political. There are 3 major concerns:

  • Cost of construction and maintenance
  • Liability
  • Neighborhood support
The first two concerns are primarily financial and would have to come out of parks budgets. Even though parks budgets are stretched thin, the potential benefits are worth it, considering how many people the trail would serve. Because employees of local businesses, like Santa Teresa Hospital, IBM, and Cisco would benefit, they might be willing to contribute to the development of the trail. State and federal grants can also help. Volunteers from these companies and neighbors might be willing to help maintain and patrol the trail, as they do with Santa Teresa Park.

The biggest concern is the last: neighborhood support. Because the canal literally runs by the backyards of hundreds of homes, it may be difficult to get universal neighborhood support for the trail . People are understandably nervous about anything that happens in their backyards. They may be afraid of noise, litter, vandalism, the loss of privacy, and the impact on property values. However, here are some reasons why neighbors should not be afraid of the trail and how it can benefit them:

  • Recreational trail users are typically much quieter and cleaner than users of parks, playgrounds, or even the sidewalks and streets in front of houses. If you don't believe that, use a tape recorder and tape the sounds in front of your house. Then go to a trail, like the Coyote Creek Trail, and do the same.
  • Once it becomes a recreational trail, there can be trash cans and dog dropping scoop dispensers provided along the canal, as well as regular maintenance patrols to keep the canal levee clean. Currently, these are not there. Adopt-a-creek programs can recruit more volunteers to help keep the area clean if it is a public trail.
  • Users of the trails will be people from the neighborhoods. This can help bring neighbors together and get to know each other. More use by legal trail users can help scare vandals away and discourage kids from playing with fire, which is the cause of many fires in the hills. Legal use and regular patrols by volunteers and park rangers can improve the safety and security of the adjoining neighborhoods.
  • Privacy concerns by people whose backyards are visible from the trail can be addressed by the strategic planting of bushes and trees, either along the trailside or behind the backyards of houses. However, there are advantages to having at least parts of their backyards visible from the trail: Neighborhood watch patrols can spot prowlers and break-ins easier.
  • Because of the trail links, the canal trail will be a gateway to a vast network of hundreds of miles of trails, one of the best in the country. The recreational value of the trails can raise the value of adjoining properties.
Those who are concerned about having a trail in their backyard should visit the Alameda Creek Trail in Fremont. The trail runs on both sides of the Alameda Creek Flood Control Channel for 12 miles. It runs behind the backyards of hundreds of homes. Nearby trails in Union City run by even more homes. The Iron Horse Regional Trail in the East Bay is even longer, which will be 33 miles long when completed. It runs on a former railroad right-of-way that runs behind countless numbers of  homes, giving the neighbors a safe off-road corridor to reach schools, parks, shopping centers, golf courses, museums, and workplaces. It is so popular that some new housing developments advertise being along the trail, even though the trail hasn't been completed past them yet. These trails are a tremendous recreational resource for the people in the area. Many of them have gates in their backyard fences so they can get to the trails directly from their homes. The pictures below are of these trails, showing how close they run to peoples' houses and how the neighbors feel about the trails by the way they provide access to them from their backyards:
Path leading up to the Alameda Creek Trail from a house in Union City Alameda Creek Trail running behind houses in Fremont  Dry Creek Trail running above houses in Union City Union City Trail running next to backyard fences along flood control channel
Gate in backyard fence in San Ramon, with path leading down to the Iron Horse Regional Trail  Fences of houses on both sides of the Iron Horse Trail in San Ramon  Gate on backyard fence on the east side of the Iron Horse Trail in San Ramon Bicyclist on the Iron Horse Trail in Danville, with backyard fences on both sides

Many people along the route of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal also have gates in their backyard fences, but they open into the narrow and limited San Jose city parkland below the canal. Once the canal is opened, they will have access to a continuous park of virtually unlimited size in their own backyards. This is something to work for and treasure, not fear. 

My Creek

I don't live next to the Coyote-Alamitos Canal, but I do have a water district creek (Canoas Creek) running behind my house. It's a concrete-lined storm drain that is not as scenic as the Coyote-Alamitos Canal, but at least it's a creek. However, I have not been able to enjoy it. It's fenced-off and off-limits. I can barely see it through my backyard fence. I can't even go back there to fix or paint the back of my fence. I can't go back there to chop down weeds that are invading into my yard. I can't go back there to retrieve balls or frisbees that my kids have thrown over the fence. It would have been a nice place to take my kids for a walk or go bike riding to local parks when they were young, without fear of getting hit by cars, but I couldn't take them back there. 

However, other people go back there. Teenagers hop the fences or crawl under the gates all the time. They haven't caused me any trouble except for the noise. They like it because there are no adults back there. It's their own private place to hang out and escape from adult scrutiny. If adults were to use the trail, they would clear out, because the last thing they want is to hang out with their parents. 

I would love it if this creek's levees were to become trails, then I and my neighbors could use it. (Hmm, a subject for a future Web page, maybe). I could put a gate in my backyard fence and use the trail to go riding or jogging after work, as well as maintain my back fence. I could go strolling back there with my wife. My elderly mother-in-law, who's too afraid of cars to go walking on the sidewalk, could use it to get exercise. Would I mind if there were a stream of people traveling behind my backyard fence? No, because I'd be with them, and I might make more friends. I also have been on enough trails to know what trail users are like. I would feel more comfortable about them being back there and watching my back than a bunch of unsupervised teenagers. However, I could see how some of my neighbors might have their doubts, so I can understand the concerns about the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail. To cut through the fear and emotion and find out what the facts are, see the links in the next section.


See the links below for other examples of recreational trails and the value of trails.

General Trail Studies and Information

Trail Organizations

California Trails

Trails in Other Areas


Updated 11/22/00 by Ronald Horii, revised 3/29/04, migrated 10/14/09, repaired 3/4/11 (note: the information and links on this page have not been updated since 2004)