for tots and big kids. Running and hiking trails. And lots of blue
Anna Jean Cummings Park
Several of our recent exploring stories have
covered long hikes in big parks. Here is a nearby park that is more
appropriate for a family outing, a training run, or a short hike.
Anna Jean Cummings was the founder of the Santa
Cruz Land Trust and a member of the Save Soquel group that was
involved in converting the O’Neill Dairy Ranch into public
recreational and open space. This 95-acre park is a fitting tribute
to this community volunteer.
Located just above Soquel High School on Old San
Jose Road, the park is a short drive from the Summit area. In terms
of usage, it is designed like a multi-level video game.
The first level is the playground area. Here is a
great place for family picnics, a play day, or just getting a little
sun. Toddlers and bigger kids have separate playgrounds, which makes
the experience more pleasant for children and their parents. The
play structures are well-built, well-maintained, and clean. There is
lots of room on the grass fields to play running games. Big dual
slides are a treat for more adventuresome kids. You can also rent a
jump house. Call 831-454-7956 for information.
A website devoted to Santa Cruz playgrounds gives
this park five stars. So do users who leave comments on the site.
They talk about the great play structures with "lots to do,"
drinking fountains, clean bathrooms, and big fields. One user said,
"The kids never want to leave." The only negative was the need for
more shade, so you might want to bring an umbrella and sunscreen.
For information about 23 Santa Cruz playgrounds, visit http://kidsparks.santacruzinfro.com.
Anna Jean Cummings Park is more than a
playground. If you walk up 106 steps to the next level, you’ll
discover giant softball and soccer fields. Around these fields is a
two-loop jogging trail. Walk, jog, or run around a half-mile loop,
or take a short cut on a 3/10-mile loop. Most of the path features
the soft surface cushioning of packed dirt, and unlike most mountain
trails, it is flat. It is also open to view, so you can see and be
seen, which makes it easier to watch running partners and children.
You can bring your dog. Cleanup bags are available.
If you want a change, you can run next door on
the Soquel High School track. By the way, if you don’t like climbing
the 106-step stairway, you can drive to a second parking lot on the
The third level is a little more challenging. At
the end of the soccer field, you’ll find an unimproved path called
Killer Hill Trail. It moves up and out of the park into O’Neill
Ranch open space. The view from the top is worth the short climb.
You can see Monterey Bay and Soquel to the southeast, and Sugarloaf
Mountain to the north. At the top of the hill, you can turn right to
follow a trail that curves to the west, down into a deep gulley,
then up the other side to a large, open, grassy field. It makes a
small loop and returns back to the starting point. If instead of
turning right at the top of hill turn left. You can follow a
6/10-mile loop that takes you back to the soccer field.
The scbirdingguide.org website reports that this
area is a good birding area, especially in the winter. You may see
northern Harrier, white-tailed kite, Merlin, and other raptors.
Common sightings include sparrows, goldfinches, California thrasher,
wrentit, northern flicker, California quail, and Say’s Phoebe. House
wren and blue-gray gnatcatcher are seen in the fall and winter.
Fruiting shrubs attract wintering American robins, cedar waxwings,
hermit thrushes, and purple finches. A narrow riparian corridor
hosts flocks of insectivores and typical oak woodland species.
Looking for a fourth level? A trail heading south
from Killer Hill Trail looks promising. You may find another route
About those blue balls
The park is often called Blue Ball Park because
of four eight-foot-diameter blue balls that appear to be rolling
down the hillside to the playgrounds. Artist-creators Steve Gillman
and Katherine Keefer call them Skyballs. When you create something
as fun and unusual as this, I guess you can call them anything you