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New Anaheim Park Has the Look of Old

Recreation: City's first school once sat on the 2-acre downtown site. Details such as concrete scoring reflect its history.

March 16, 2002|TINA BORGATTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The second of three new downtown parks in Anaheim will be dedicated today at a ceremony featuring family activities and, in keeping with the park's name, free cherry pie.

George Washington Park at 250 E. Cypress St., built where the city's first school once stood, is on 2 acres with picnic and play areas, a rose garden, gazebo and bandstand. Its construction is part of a push to provide more open space for residents, said Chris Jarvi, director of community services.

"It's fairly small, but it's a very nice piece of landscape architecture," Jarvi said. "Even the concrete scoring mimics early scoring in the 1900s. When you look around, you can see the detail and construction of the early years were incorporated into the park."

In September, the city opened Oak Grove Park at 905 S. Anaheim Blvd. Ross Park near Manchester Avenue and Santa Ana Street is set to open this fall. George Washington Park is where an elementary school was built in 1879 and operated until the late 1970s, when the school district sold the property to the city. Planners took pains to reflect that history in the park's design, Jarvi said. A plaque chronicles the uses of the property over the years. The gazebo was designed with the Craftsman-style architecture of the early 1900s, and fencing around the park is decorative wrought iron.

The city bought the property from the Anaheim City School District in the 1970s and converted the old schoolhouse into a community center. When the Downtown Community Center opened in 1988, the school was razed. City officials held on to the property with the goal of converting it into a park for strolling and picnicking.

"Finding land for parks has become more and more difficult" because Anaheim has little vacant land, Jarvi said. "For a number of years now, the school district has been selling off its closed sites to developers, and when homes are built, it's a double whammy because you've got more people coming in."

The city's solution has been to buy old buildings, then convert the land to parks. An example was Walnut Grove Park, which opened in September at 905 S. Anaheim Blvd. Businesses and homes once occupied the 3-acre site, which now has basketball courts, ball fields, a playground and picnic areas.

Ross Park, built where a lumberyard used to be, will be nearly 6 acres with a playground, picnic areas, lighted ball fields and basketball courts.

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