a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Started Another Blog plus History of Martial Cottle Park

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Started Another Blog plus History of Martial Cottle Park

SUMMARY: Martial Cottle Park Naughty Neighbor Patrol.

Sooooooo I haven't been posting here much. Maybe blame it on Facebook (where I do post pithy pointless sayings and photos), or blame it on not doing much in the way of dog sports or dog training, or whatever.

Meanwhile, a new, nearly 300-acre park opened its perimeter trail right behind my house. We've been waiting for this for many, many years, and the neighborhood loves it, based on how many people I see out on the trail at all times of the day. This, in an area where going for walks at any time of the day usually found the sidewalks deserted.

No landscaping yet, and the west side near me will mostly be agricultural land, but it's still nice to go walking.

A little history: The Cottle family moved to the San Jose area in the mid-1800s. San Jose was next to nothing until the gold rush, when the whole valley began providing food for the booming San Francisco and the mining towns in the Sierras. This is really where money was to be made! The Santa Clara valley is amazingly fertile, and over time, agriculture spread across the valley, with plum and cherry trees in particular, so that in the spring, the whole valley bloomed. It became known as The Valley of Heart's Delight. (Now it's Silicon Valley. Which do you prefer? Discuss.)

Martial Cottle, born in 1833 in Missouri, came here with his family when he was 21. They were fairly affluent to begin with, bringing 600 head of cattle with them.  They bought and married into--I think--several square miles of the the valley.  When his father died, Martial ended up with hundreds of acres, but on this 350-acre parcel he lived, built a Victorian farmhouse (still there), and raised wheat, cattle, and orchards.

His five children were born in the house, including Ethel (1891-1977). Ethel married and had two children, also born in that house, Walter Cottle Lester (b. 1925) and Edith Lester. Walter (and possibly Edith?) lived in that farmhouse their entire lives. Ethel started the idea, as she watched the valley change around her, from agriculture to suburbs and business parks, of preserving the site as a reminder of the valley's agricultural roots. After Ethel died, Walter talked with various governments for probably two decades--not trusting government and not liking what they wanted to offer--before an agreement began to unfold with the state or the county (not the city--some bad feelings there of some sort).

And then Edith died. Leaving Walter with an enormous inheritance tax: Developers had reportedly offered him up to half a *billion* dollars ($500,000,000) for the property.  Eventually, after more negotiations, the state, which had a bit more money at the time, bought half the property, allowing him to pay the taxes, and he donated the rest to the County of Santa Clara, along with a deed that covered BOTH parts of the property as one park and stating explicitly how the park could and could not be used (this is often referred to as "the donor's vision," but it is, in fact, a legal document).

Part of the agreement was that he could continue to live on the property in the same house, along with his barns and orchards and smaller fields, in the Life Estate part of the park, until he died.  So no development or planning could occur in the Life Estate until then.

This was a few short years after I moved here. Then began the long permitting (environmental reports, etc.) and planning process. I attended many of the public meetings, which started in 2007, and provided my input, as well.   Construction finally began first on the perimeter trail last autumn, with heavy equipment working behind my house for months.

We looked forward to the promised opening at the beginning of February. Plans were made for a huge celebration and official opening.

On the evening of January 31 of this year, Walter Cottle Lester died.

On the morning of February 1st, the official opening of the perimeter trail abruptly became a hasty memorial as well, as the very first public access to the park opened: About half of the Perimeter Trail (I think it's about 1.8 miles of trail).  Sadly, I was off doing dog agility that weekend and didn't attend.

I think that Walter might have held on until he could really see that his mother's and his sister's and his vision had become a reality.

Anyway, back to us.

We've been out walking around fairly often, and [sigh] picking up litter and occasional abandoned poops. Then, last week, I decided to make a blog about it.

Check out my Martial Cottle Park Naughty Neighbor Patrol blog. Main goal is to track what I'm picking up (and there are others, probably staff, also picking up), but as long as I'm out, might as well throw in some photos and commentary.

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