Thursday, May 21, 2015

Playground Review: Sherman Oaks Park (San Jose)


Nothing like visiting a brand new playground to get you excited about being a toddler blogger!

Last Friday, in a great collaboration between Kaboom! (a non-profit that helps build new playgrounds and promote play), the San Jose Parks Foundation, the San Jose Sharks Foundation, the Campbell School District and the Sherman Oaks area of San Jose, the community came together to construct, in a single day, a new neighborhood play space on the corner of Leigh Avenue and Fruitdale Avenue, adjacent to Sherman Oaks Elementary. The playground opened to the public on Monday afternoon, and of course Toddler X and I couldn't resist its allure for long -- on Wednesday after preschool, we headed over for a visit.

The new Sherman Oaks playground is a wonderful addition to a neighborhood that really needed open space for its children to play. This fully-fenced park (it's located at a busy intersection, so fencing is absolutely necessary) offers a moderately-sized playground area, some nice wood benches, and a lovely, large lawn for running and playing (or kite-flying -- Toddler X and his pal had a blast yesterday chasing two boys flying a kite). The SJ Sharks theme, kids' artwork and cool climbing features add to the playground's appeal. (And I hear more fun additions are in store for the future...) While there are no restrooms or designated parking spaces (this is intended to be a neighborhood park, so the expectation is that most users will walk over), it's definitely worth stopping by if you live in the vicinity or are traveling nearby.

A darling "Little Free Library" -- bring some books to share!
Negatives are basically what I said above -- location at a busy intersection, no bathrooms, on-street parking on busy Leigh -- as well as no shade over the playground area, and potentially people dropping unpleasant trash over the fence or actually producing it inside the park (as we were leaving, we saw a liquor bottle jammed under a bench).

The park isn't designed for younger toddlers, though there are certain aspects that they might enjoy -- overall, though, I'd suggest it more for ages 3 and up. Given the playground's compact nature and features that would appeal to older children, I'd recommend visiting at times when school-age kids are less likely to be present.


Sherman Oaks Park Features:

Parking: Street parking only, and it's on busy Leigh Avenue. You'll want to unload your children from the sidewalk side of the car if at all possible -- there's not much of a buffer between the driver's side of the car and the traffic passing by. I didn't check to see if there might be parking available in the lot of the adjacent elementary school

Restrooms: None.

Fenced-in Playground: Yes. The entire park is fenced, and the gate has a latch. It is ESSENTIAL that the latch stay closed, as the park gate is just feet away from busy Leigh Avenue -- keep an eye on it after other families enter/exit.

Playground Ground Covering: Tanbark.


Play Structures: The park has one main play structure, as well as a "rock" tower for climbing and a cool domed climbing feature. The main play structure was designed with older kids in mind, with climbing features that will appeal to the elementary set.

The highest potential drop is about shoulder-high.
Toddlers can enjoy the two slides (both at shoulder height) and the fun spinning stumps, and older ones will enjoy the short climbing wall as well.
There is a set of monkey bars under the play structure's bridge that are a fun height for older toddlers (as long as you give them a boost), and the domed climbing structure was a hit with toddler X and his pal.
Cool location for monkey bars -- I've never seen this before!
This thing is awesome!
Swings: None.

Sandbox: None.

Water feature: None.

Accessibility: No special features.

Shade: No shade on the playground -- a bit of shade over surrounding benches.

Picnic Tables/BBQs: None, but plenty of nice benches.


Overall setting: The playground is located at the relatively busy corner of Leigh Avenue and Fruitdale Avenue, right by San Jose City College, adjacent to Sherman Oaks Elementary (thanks to the Campbell Union School District for donating the land for this park!). We love parks by elementary school playgrounds, as Toddler X is fascinated by big kids at recess!

Crowds: We saw a couple of other families there on a Wednesday at midday, but I would definitely not describe it as busy. Given that the playground features are primarily designed for elementary age kids, I imagine the crowds will be larger after school and on weekends. There was a group of three teenagers who came in and sat on a bench right next to the playground throughout our visit. While they weren't causing any problems at all, teenagers obviously aren't the demographic you want hanging around a children's play area (we did see a liquor bottle under one of the benches -- seriously, what is wrong with people?). As at any park, just be aware of the other visitors who are present.

Other Park Features: A really pleasant, large lawn. Several nice wooden benches, including a few under an arbor. Cute child-created artwork. Free Little Library.


Overall, this is a really nice neighborhood park, and is particularly welcome because it is located in an area with a dearth of existing parks (exactly what Kaboom! tries to remedy with its playgrounds). While the setting at the corner of a busy intersection doesn't offer much in terms of atmosphere, the very cute, Sharks-themed structure, fun features, nice wood benches, colorful artwork and large lawn are all very pleasant, and the fact that it is well-fenced allows you to relax, even with cars whizzing by on the street a few feet away. Not a destination park, but definitely worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood.

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