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May 28, 2013 > History: A Peek at Parks

History: A Peek at Parks

Private parks were an early development, especially in the Niles Canyon area, but public parks for the area that became Fremont are more recent. George Walters donated the point of land where Bay Street joined "the Corners." When John Horner surveyed a road from Washington Corners to Centerville, the road pattern left a triangle of land. A 110 foot tall flag pole was erected on that property in 1887. This was one of our first parks.

Early pictures show a wrought iron fence around the park. Trees were planted for shade and beauty; speaker platforms were sometimes erected for special celebrations. An El Camino Bell and two highway signs were erected on June 13, 1909 by the Ladies Aid Society of Irvington assisted by the Women's Club of Washington Township. A postcard photo shows the bell and signs: one marked the road to Mission San Jose and the other to San Jose. A contract for painting the town flagpole was awarded to Manual Gomes in 1913.

A reporter wrote, "The Park at Irvington is one of the prettiest spots in the Township. It's a good example for the rest of the township to follow, cleaning away rubbish and making vacant lots attractive by a well-kept lawn and a few good shade trees."

Mary Beardsley, local librarian, was reported to be custodian of the park; she had help from community organizations including the Junior Chamber of Commerce (organized in 1986) that appropriated $4 for improvement of the park and appointed Wayne Day to see that the work was done. The Ladies Auxiliary helped keep the park clean in the 1940's.

A sprinkler system was installed and shrubs were planted by the Irvington Chamber of Commerce in 1948. The flagpole was painted again and a new rope installed. The Irvington Improvement Club replaced the Junior Chamber and installed a yellow flashing light on the top of the monument.

Irvington Plaza Park was later restored by the Irvington Business Association and dedicated as A. F. "Andy" Anderson Memorial Plaza. "Andy" was a key member of the association and a leader in the restoration work.

Centerville residents reported in 1916 that they were "the only town in the township that had a public park where her citizens could gather for rest and recreation." The railroad had donated the one-acre park for a "public resting place." Residents erected a bandstand and planted shrubs and trees. The Chamber of Commerce provided tables and a drinking fountain. The Centerville Concert Band gave free concerts on Sunday afternoons and holidays in summer months. They struggled in later years to maintain the park and it eventually became only a memory.

For years it appeared that men in Niles were too busy with railroads, canneries, gravel and pottery plants to create parks, but the women didn't wait. The Women's Civic Club banked $200 in 1921 and planned a park between the Union Ice Co. and the railroad crossing on First Street. California Nursery donated shrubs and gardeners and others volunteered to help, but this park did not survive.

California Nursery dedicated the Vallejo Adobe, still private property, as a free meeting place in 1931. Its welcoming atmosphere drew crowds.

The Township Register noted in March 1931 that 25 men were working on a park north of Niles. A later article reported that 380 roses had been planted in front of the trees in the new park. A garden strip along the highway north of Niles was completely planted with shrubs with a garden from the subway to the nursery gate. Maintenance funds were the responsibility of the State Highways, so this was probably the first state highway strip planting and dedicated highway rest stop.

A special park dedication ceremony was held at this park - later called Washington Township Park - in April 1937 to plant a tree in honor of the late George C. Roeding, Sr. The Country Club of Washington Township led the program which featured speaker Henry W. Kruckeberg, secretary of the California Association of Nurserymen, school children, boy scouts, and others. A bronze plaque was set in stone at the foot of a Sequoia gigantea. The tree was accepted by George C. Roeding, Jr. president of the California Nursery Company.

When the City of Fremont was incorporated in January 1956, it adopted a General Plan to guide development that included a park system. They formed a Recreation Commission and hired Ted Harpainter to be park superintendent. Twelve acres on Paseo Padre Parkway were purchased and Mission View Park, which later became Central Park, was developed. The Fremont Junior Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a campaign to landscape the new park.

There was considerable talk about acquiring and developing parks, including the picnic grounds in Niles Canyon. Some of these proposed parks were derailed by financial and political considerations. In spite of these obstacles, the City of Fremont has been able to establish and operate a great park system.

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