Welcome to Martial Cottle Park, Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department’s newest urban park. Martial Cottle Park celebrates our shared agricultural past and highlights innovations in modern organic, sustainable and urban farming practices. Throughout the park’s 287 acres, visitors can enjoy aspects of a traditional urban park, such as trails, green space and picnic areas, as well as learn the Cottle family’s story and how agriculture remains an integral part of this historic ranch. All of this comes with an emphasis on organic farming incorporating the latest in water conservation techniques and ongoing community education.
HISTORY OF THE MARTIAL COTTLE FAMILY RANCH
Established by Edward Cottle in 1864 and continually maintained and farmed by his descendants until 2014, this land remained in agricultural production under one family for 150 years. Martial Cottle Park now celebrates our shared agricultural heritage and how the tradition of farming and sharing food continues to shape our landscape, people and history.
Vermont-born Edward Cottle emigrated from Missouri to Santa Clara County by wagon in 1854 and settled near Coyote Creek. Ten years later he purchased a portion of Rancho Santa Teresa from the Bernal family and began raising milk cows and cattle, and planting grain and row crops. Edward later divided the land between his two sons, Martial and Warren. Martial Cottle’s approximately 350-acre parcel remained in agriculture with his descendants living and farming there until 2014, when his last living heir, Walter Cottle Lester passed away.
As the agricultural economy of the Santa Clara Valley changed, so did the products of the Cottle ranch and farm. From cattle and dairy pastures to wheat fields and row crops, this land helped sustain the valley’s growing population and changing agriculture markets. During World War I and again in the 1920s and 30s, portions of the ranch were leased to Japanese tenant farmers who grew sugar beets, onions, carrots, peppers and strawberries.
Although large-scale fruit orchards symbolic of Santa Clara County’s agricultural history were not planted here, there were some plum, apricot, cherry, quince and apple trees. The Cottles and Lesters did, however, manage large fruit orchards on other family-owned properties around the valley.
In order to maintain its agricultural history and preserve this land for future generations, the Cottle-Lester family withstood the pressures of urban development and turned down fortunes offered by developers. In 2003 Walter Cottle Lester, in accordance with his mother Ethel Cottle Lester’s wishes, transferred his remaining 287 acres to the State and County for development of a public park that informs and educates the public about the agricultural heritage of the Santa Clara Valley.
View some of the Martial Cottle Park historical archives and collections items here.
Quote from a 2013 San Jose Mercury News interview with Walter Cottle Lester:
“I was born here. I’ve spent my entire life here. It would be nice for kids in future generations to know what it was like before it all changed.”
Walter Cottle Lester established the Martial Cottle Park Foundation to assist the County in developing, improving, and operating the Park. Goals of the foundation include repairing and restoring the historic structures and equipment, and supporting park projects within the park. The Martial Cottle Park Foundation has donated nearly $300,000 to date for materials to preserve, restore and repair Cottle/Lester family buildings and belongings at Martial Cottle Park.
To achieve the wishes of Ethel Cottle Lester and her family, Santa Clara County Parks has partnered with several entities to keep agriculture alive at Martial Cottle Park.
Jacobs Farm is a leader in organic farming and is partnering with County Parks for long term organic agricultural production and community education on 180 acres of the park. Prioritizing water-wise irrigation and sustainable farming practices, Jacobs Farm grows “Dry Farmed” Heirloom and Early Girl tomatoes. The crops need some water to get established initially but then are grown up to harvest time without a drop of water. Other featured crops at Jacobs Farm’s Martial Cottle Park farm have included melons, cherries, stone fruit, summer and winter squash, corn, pumpkins, culinary herbs, blackberries and fresh cut flowers. Many of the flowers are considered the organic farmers’ best friends because they encourage the beneficial activities of insects and butterflies. Jacobs Farm sells its produce locally and in grocery stores across the country. It is a rare opportunity to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the community directly from “field to fork.”
In addition to the commercial farmer, several other organizations focus on community education related to agriculture and the environment. These partners include the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Our City Forest, and the City of San Jose’s Community Garden Program. , UC Cooperative Extension includes Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, 4-H Youth Development, Small Farm Program and Composting Education Program. Each of these community partners operate parcels at the park and offer opportunities for the public to tour, take a class, attend a workshop or volunteer. Each partner helps to uphold the vision of the Cottle Lester family to inform and educate the public about agriculture in Santa Clara Valley.
The Friends of Martial Cottle Park (FOMC) has supported the park since 2018. FOMCP inspires the community to care for, learn about, and enjoy the park and the agricultural heritage of Santa Clara Valley by promoting programs and projects that support and preserve the park.
Martial Cottle Park, together with the park partners, hosts a number of seasonal celebrations like Spring and Fall Festivals, Master Gardeners’ Spring and Fall Garden Markets, Jacobs Farm’s pumpkin patch, corn maze and holiday trees, and many others.
How to Get There
Martial Cottle Park is located at:
5283 Snell Ave San Jose, CA 95136
Park Office: (408) 535-4060
From Highway 85 South, take the Blossom Hill Rd exit and turn left on Blossom Hill Rd. Travel approximately 0.5 miles and turn left onto Snell Ave. Travel approximately 0.6 miles and turn left into the park.
The 3+ miles of paved trails offers recreational opportunities for walkers, joggers, bicyclists, skaters, non-motorized scooters and roller bladers. Equestrians and dogs on 6-foot leash are also welcome on the trail. Please pick up after your pets.
Five group picnic areas are available for reservation, ranging in size to accommodate 50 to 300 people. Reservations for the group areas are year-round. Additionally, there are five first-come, first-serve picnic sites.
Stop into the Visitor Center to learn more about the history of the land and the family who donated their ranch to become this public park. On exhibit you’ll see items from their daily life, from clothing, letters, toys and bakeware to their replica cattle brand, garden tools, farm equipment and butter-making supplies.
Learn about the benefits of urban trees at Our City Forest’s site, take a garden tour or workshop with Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, visit the livestock 4-H club members are raising, and explore what you can learn about agriculture at Martial Cottle Park.
For school group information please click here.
Deed restrictions prohibit the use of lawns for organized sports activities.
Hours and Fees
The park is open year-round from 8 a.m. until sunset. Vehicle entry fees are collected year-round. Fees are required for vehicle entrance and for use of group picnic areas. Fees are posted at the entrance station.
Weekday discounted vehicle parking fees:
$2 per hour or $6 all-day vehicle entry.
Offer only valid Monday-Friday, excluding Holidays. Hourly ticket expires at the allotted time after purchase. All-day entry pass expires at sunset.
Access fees information here: Park Fees
Visitor Center Hours
Interested in Volunteering?
Volunteers are a vital part of the work we do at Martial Cottle Park. We have a wide array of volunteer positions, including Visitor Center Host, Land Steward team, School Programs Docent, Trail Watch/Litter Pickup team, Nest Box Monitor, Newsletter, Special Projects and Special Events. To apply, click Here.
In compliance with the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ('ADA'), the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in its programs, services, or activities. The Department will make reasonable modifications to policies and programs to ensure that people with disability have an equal opportunity to enjoy our programs, services, facilities, and activities. If you need assistance with an ADA request, please contact our ADA Coordinator.