A park with no slides? No swings? The newly-opened Martial Cottle Park takes a step away from the usual park equipment and back to its roots with an agriculture theme that teaches kids about the days when San Jose was full of farms and not urban sprawl. Read on to learn what we love about this new playground!
History Lesson on the Playground
Martial Cottle Park sits on land that was obtained by Edward Cottle in 1864 and was used for farming by the Cottle family for 150 years. In 2003, the family donated the land to the state and county for development of a public park that would inform and educate visitors about the agricultural heritage of the Santa Clara Valley. The park celebrates this heritage through its playground structures, landscape and visitors’ center.
As you walk from the parking lot to the Discovery Farm playground area, you may be surprised that you won’t see swings, slides and seesaws. Instead, kids will enjoy climbing on farm animals and inside a life-sized tractor. There’s also a cut out redwood tree that is fun for the littler ones to hide in.
The main climbing structure is a group of wood beams that just screams out for make-believe play. Will it be a pirate ship or an alien spaceship today? You are only limited by your imagination! There are lots of opportunities for gross motor play in this area which is best for kids ages 4 and up.
Explore a little further and you come to the tree trunk play structure. Kids can climb inside the lower cutout or walk up the hill to the top lookout to spy on those below.
The little hill next to the tree trunk offered tons of opportunities for hill rolling. Parents will also find that it is a good spot to sit as it allows you to see all areas of the playground. A small water feature with water pump has been built but due to the drought has not yet been turned on.
Bike, Hike and Scooter
Surrounding the playground are paved paths that are perfect for a bike or scooter ride, or stroller pushing. The park also offers an expansive green area so bring your soccer ball or kite on a windy day.
Visit With Us
Head on over to the Visitors’ Center and you are in for a hands-on learning experience. You can visit with Freddie, the blind California King Snake who lives in the center. Volunteer docents and park staff are available to talk about the exhibits which include an icebox that would have been part of the original Cottle farm in the 1800s and the branding iron that was used to mark cattle. Kids may also enjoy counting the holes left in the tree branch by the acorn woodpeckers that once inhabited the area.
Good to Know
There’s not a ton of shade in the play area so wear hats and sunscreen. However, there are lots of well-shaded picnic areas available. Some can be reserved in advance (and come with barbecues) and others are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bathrooms (with diaper changing stations) and drinking fountains are plentiful.
The park’s main entrance is on Snell Avenue and there is a large parking lot adjacent to the Visitors’ Center that is close to the Discovery Farm play area. You can also park on Chynoweth Avenue and walk about a half mile along the paved path to the play structure.
The park hosts various events such as a pumpkin patch and Harvest Festival in the fall and a Christmas tree stand in December. In warmer months they host “Baby, Work Out” on the first Saturday of the month where parents and little ones can enjoy music and movement with park staff.
On Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m., head to the Visitors’ Center where park staff will talk about the agricultural history of the park. You will then go on a short walk to see equipment that was used on the farm in the 1890s and talk about the park’s current farming practices and plans for the future.
What’s your favorite part of Martial Cottle Park? Let us know in the comments below!
All photos by the author