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Paying tribute to Kitty Monahan aka “Mayor of New Almaden”

A beloved figure in the community, Kathleen “Kitty” Monahan died last year at the age of 89, but her legacy will live on at Almaden Quicksilver County Park. Visitors to the park may notice a new trailmarker dedicated to Monahan, who was instrumental in Santa Clara County’s purchase and preservation of the 4,000-acre park.

New signage denoting a bridge and a trail renamed in Monahan’s honor were unveiled on November 28 by County Supervisor Joe Simitian (who represents the Almaden Valley area) at a dedication ceremony attended by dozens of community members who loved and admired Monahan. A memorial picnic table donated by the New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association has also been placed in the park.

Describing her as “the heart and soul of New Almaden,” Simitian said Monahan was “someone who pulled together so many other good people to do so many other good works.”

“What I’ve heard from everybody, whatever piece of her world they were a part of, the word ‘goodness’ just kept coming up over and over again,” Simitian said at the dedication event.

Monahan called New Almaden home since 1972. A preservationist, educator, and historian, she spearheaded efforts in 1976 to get Santa Clara County to purchase the 4,163-acre Almaden Quicksilver County Park. She was determined to preserve not just the natural beauty of the Almaden Valley but to preserve the Valley’s history, especially its history of 19th century mercury mining. At one time, New Almaden was the largest mercury mine in the United States. 

In 1983, Monahan helped found the New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association. She later served on the Citizens Advisory Committee of Santa Clara County’s Open Space Authority. During her lifetime, she spent at least 14,000 hours volunteering for the County’s park system, was a Parks and Recreation Commissioner, and came to be known as the unofficial mayor of New Almaden. Monahan was recognized with a Presidential Volunteer Service Award in 2014, and a lifetime achievement award by the Santa Clara County Preservation Alliance in 2022.

“She did so much to safeguard the environment for future generations, and it’s fitting that her name will be associated with the waters and lands she loved,” Simitian said. 

Monahan’s life of leadership and good works extended beyond her environmental service. She was captain of her high school basketball team, a nun for 19 years, and a math teacher at William C. Overfelt High School in San Jose.

Speakers at the dedication ceremony touched on the lasting impact Monahan has had on the New Almaden community. Mike Wasserman, a former County Supervisor, described Monahan as a “very creative person.”

“She educated me when I came here, told me what was what,” he said. “She told me what was needed, and she had ideas on how to achieve them. She was always part of the solution. Kitty always had a smile. Kitty was always willing to be part of the solution and to help out in whatever way necessary.”

“Kitty was a force,” said Don Rocha, Director of the County’s Parks and Recreation Department. “Throughout my progression of career in parks – I’ve been here for over 30 years – the first person to congratulate me and advocate for what we can do together to build up our parks and improve our park system was Kitty. She was very solution oriented.”

Simitian recounted how William Alley, a New Almaden resident, reached out to his office with the idea to re-name the new bridge in Monahan’s honor.

“We checked with Kitty’s brother, Richard Monahan, who said Kitty was a bridge to so many people during the course of her lifetime, it would be fitting, metaphorically, for her to have a bridge named after her,” Simitian said.

The Kathleen “Kitty” Monahan Bridge crosses the creek on Alamitos Road, approximately one mile south of Bertram Road. The new bridge  consists of a three-span structure with two lanes of traffic, four-foot shoulders, one sidewalk, and railings. 

“Every time you go clunkety-clunk over the bridge,” Simitian said at the November 28, 2023 gathering, “I hope you will give another thought to Kitty and her good works and all her kindness.”