Great news in California! San Jose’s Willow Glen Neighborhood just got a new trail that celebrates the valley’s former railway and the canneries it once served back when the Silicon Valley was known as “Valley of Heart’s Delight.”
The newly opened 0.8-mile stretch of the Three Creeks Trail is the first phase of a planned trail system that will connect three other trail systems across the city. The urban trail also delivers the 60th mile of the growing San Jose Trail Network, one of the largest urban trail networks in the nation.
Honoring the Region’s Rich History
Located just a few blocks from downtown Willow Glen, with retail and restaurants along Lincoln Avenue, the trail—which passes through a well-manicured neighborhood filled with historic homes—is enriched with unique features and attractions relevant to the area, including a 30-foot-tall “Water Tank” to recall the pressure tanks that served the canneries, a plaza with etched “fruit” inspired by the labels that decorated fruit crates shipped across the country, an iris garden celebrating the pioneering work of botanist Ruth Rees, and “fruit crates” as seating opportunities along the trail! Native, drought-tolerant and flowering trees add interest and (future) shade along the corridor.
Recalling history was a central goal of the Three Creeks Trail master plan, which was developed by the city in collaboration with the wider community.
The design leverages landscaping and architecture as interpretive features, with small medallions explaining features like a “sliced train engine” and the iris garden. The trail further supports the synthesis of walkability and cultural engagement by leveraging nearby historical sites. Near the trail, just 800 feet away, sits San Jose’s second oldest home, the Roberto-Suñol Adobe (circa 1836), and just 500 feet off the trail is the city’s first subdivision, Palm Haven (circa 1913).
Laying the Ground Work
When rail traffic ceased along the Union Pacific Railroad corridor in the early 2000s, and a 7.5-acre parcel was put on the market, the City recognized the potential for an urban trail to help connect the area and expand the trail network; however, its future was at risk.
Because the corridor was wide enough to accommodate housing in certain locations, it caught the eye of local developers, and one development moved forward, with 20 homes constructed. City staff coordinated to secure space for trail development within the narrow remaining space, and trail advocates mobilized to prevent further residential development along the corridor.
With the western leg of the trail now opened, the city continues efforts to expand the Three Creeks Trail to its planned length of 3 miles. When complete, the paved pathway will serve as an important connector between the Los Gatos Creek Trail on its northern end and a proposed extension of the Guadalupe River Trail on its southern end.
Approximately $5,235,000 in funding for the trail was made possible by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and the County of Santa Clara Parks Department. Development support totaling $1,450,000 was received from the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the State of California (Urban Greening Grant), with the city sourcing further resources from its Park Development Fees.
The City of San José, along with Save Our Trails—a local trail advocacy group—and many volunteers, have been gathering usage data along the corridor since 2011 (as it operated as an “interim” undeveloped trail until its formal opening this year). Another upcoming Trail Count will be implemented in the near future to document the change in trail use following the completion of multiuse trail improvements and landscaping to help support the trail’s ongoing development.
Watch for more news about the Three Creeks Trail soon.
For more information about the San Jose Trail Network, go to the City of San Jose website.