Like many people who were raised in Santa Clara Valley, before it was Silicon Valley, I spent my youth playing a lot of baseball, bicycling, running, shooting hoops and hanging out with friends at our local park. I took for granted that this magical place was always here for me. And with some of the world’s nicest weather, my neighborhood park was an integral part of my childhood. In my teens, I changed the activities, but still spent hours on courts and fields with friends and fellow athletes playing pick-up games of one sort or another.
As an adult, I came to greater appreciate the world of parks and recreation, trails and fields, as I began to understand the vision it took to construct a parks system. Now, after running the San Jose Parks Foundation and spending the last few years learning about parks and trails across the United States, I have an even greater appreciation of what we have here in San Jose. It is a vast and amazing world, our parks and trails, and I am grateful to those visionaries, civic leaders and the scores of civil servants who cared enough to do such a good job. Let’s review what they created.
San Jose’s parks and trails are truly vast, containing a wide variety of locations, terrain, flora and fauna, historical edifices and relics, artistic works, statuary and a wide variety of playing fields, courts, running tracks and cycling trails (some of which are also transportation corridors), rivers, creeks, skate parks, dog parks, community gardens, farmland, picnic tables, barbecues, slides, swings, climbing structures and children’s playgrounds of all sizes and shapes. And I am certain I have missed several key items.
When taking inventory of this system of parks and trails, the numbers are somewhat staggering, at least from the last accounting I received. There are approximately 2,884 acres of parkland that include: 80,000 square feet of skate park, 200-plus neighborhood parks, 200-plus playgrounds, 100 volleyball and basketball courts, 94 sports fields, 80 tennis courts, 55 community centers, 54-plus miles of trail, 50-plus horseshoe pits, 30-plus exercise courts, nine regional parks, nine swimming pools, six dog parks and one BMX park.
Beyond the numbers, the content is wondrous. In San Jose, right now, available to you as a resident, is a trail that you may hike, walk, skate or cycle for up to 15 miles in one direction, uninterrupted by a single automobile. You have cultural areas in parks that cover just about every significant segment of San Jose’s population, including sculptures of such differing images as Confucius and Quetzalcoatl. You can visit an adobe hut, a log cabin, a barn, a small traditional Chinese hall, a tea garden and even a zoo.
Now that the weather is truly great, do yourself a favor and explore this wonderful world of San Jose parks and trails, and think about how valuable it is to have such a world available to you.
James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected] or 408.893.PARK.