A place for everyone but hikers
Martial Cottle Park
Neil Wiley

Here’s a nice place to walk, push a stroller, or ride a bike. Paved, flat trails make it easy. And no long drive is required. You can be there in less than thirty minutes (if the traffic isn’t bad).

It’s called a park, but it’s a multi-purpose, 287-acre farm. Located right in the middle of San Jose, farmers, youth programs, several agencies, designers, artists, and historians are creating an educational and interpretive experience.

Parts of the property are used for organic agriculture, master gardeners, Our City Forest, and an organic-produce stand. To make it more interesting, however, historians have created a little museum at the visitor center. The sign says that the center is open every day, but it was closed when I was there.

Don’t despair. If you love history, you can learn more on tours held every Saturday at 1 p.m. No reservations are required.

A few steps away from the visitor center, Monte’s Discovery Farm is a whimsical play area filled with interesting, climbable animals, a do-it-yourself water feature (complete with a hand-water pump), a hollow tree trunk, and lots of interesting rocks and walls. The animals are life-like, but childproof and approachable.

History and esthetics are well served by demonstration orchards of pear trees and English walnuts. Even better, casual walks along curving paths reveal many native and drought-tolerant plants. A free printed guide shows the locations of Atlas fescue, California dune sedge, California rush, deer grass, evergreen fountain grass, knock out rose, orchid rockrose, Pacific reed grass, Chinese silver grass, California wild-grape hybrids, Fremont cottonwood, California pepper, ornamental pear, coast redwood, English walnut, and valley oak. Perhaps you’ll find the perfect plant for your yard.

As you walk out into the giant meadow, you can enjoy a great feeling of fresh air, green open space, and formal landscaping. All this sunshine feels wonderful on a winter day, but lack of shade may make you less comfortable in summer.

For those who want or need a longer walk, a 3.2-mile trail encircles the park perimeter. (It is less interesting than the interior paths, but better for running.)

You can reserve one of five group picnic areas, accommodating from 50 to 300 people. They are not always available, because some are used for seasonal celebrations and festivals.

It’s an easy drive to the park/farm. Follow 17 north to Highway 85 south. Take the Blossom Hill Road exit, turn left on Blossom Hill, and then in about half a mile, turn left on Snell Avenue. You will see the park entrance on the left at 0.6 miles. On weekdays, parking is $2 an hour, or $6 for all day. On weekends, parking is $6. The park opens at 10 a.m., and closes at 2 p.m. in the winter, 4 p.m. in the summer. Walk-ins can enter the park at 8 a.m. For GPS users, the park address is 5283 Snell Avenue, in San Jose.