Two vie for open space district seat | October 8, 2008 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Cover Story - October 8, 2008

Two vie for open space district seat

by Marion Softky

Veteran incumbent Ken Nitz of Redwood City faces a challenges from San Carlos parks and recreation commissioner and environmental activist Cecily Harris to represent Ward 7 on the Board of Directors of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Ward 7 covers the northern part of the district, which extends from San Carlos south past Los Gatos in Santa Clara County. Ward 7 includes San Carlos, Redwood City, the northern fringe of Woodside past Skyline Boulevard, and the central Coastside south to Lobitos creek.

Founded in 1972, the district now protects more than 57,000 acres of public open space in 23 preserves.

Ken Nitz

Mr. Nitz, a senior software engineer at SRI International in Menlo Park, is seeking a fourth term on the board. He said he is proud of the accomplishments of the district over the past 12 years — including preservation of more than 16,000 acres of land that can never be developed.

"I'm detail-oriented. I ask a lot of questions of the staff," Mr. Nitz said in an interview. "I want to make sure we do things properly.

"The big thing for me is financial sustainability," he said "Considering the financial crisis that's happening around us, I want to make sure the district stays around. This year's fine; next year's going to be a big pain."

Mr. Nitz, who enjoys hiking district trails, is also committed to protecting the land the district already has, and to manage its resources by, for example, removing invasive non-native plants. "I will continue to buy land and open it up to the public," he said.

Cecily Harris

Cecily Harris brings a long list of environmental credentials to her campaign. Trained as a wildlife biologist with an MBA, she is a financial services manager for the San Mateo County Parks Department, as well as a parks and recreation commissioner for San Carlos, and a member of the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee.

Ms. Harris cites her experience during 25 years of working with nonprofits and government agencies, serving on boards and advisory commissions. "I understand the role a board member plays," she said. "So I think I can hit the ground running."

Ms. Harris wants to help the district balance acquisition of new lands with protection and preservation of district lands, and provide access to the public.

"The district has done a fabulous job of acquiring land. We're blessed," Ms. Harris said. "I would like to see just as much emphasis on protection and preservation — like ridding the preserves of non-native plants and animals."

Ms. Harris also wants to increase public access to district lands. "I want to add low-impact recreational trails and viewpoints," she said. "I want to make sure people can get onto our preserves — where appropriate.

"I'd like to be an ambassador for the public agency to the community."


Posted by Patty Ciesla, a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Cecily Harris will breathe some new life into the MROSD board of directors. The board is not subject to term limits and consequently sees very little turnover. Cecily's experience with County Parks, and her interests in increasing public access are much more in line with what the public wants and needs to see from the district.