Results tagged “parks” from Raincross Square

Exotic plants are abundant at UCR's Botanic Gardens

Note: The following write-up by us on UCR's Botanic Gardens first appeared on


Nestled within 40 hilly acres on the eastern edge of the University of California at Riverside campus, the UCR Botanic Gardens is one of the Inland region's best-kept secrets.

Main entrance

Alder Canyon

Spring blossoms

Aloe - Eastern Africa

Arizona Barrel Cactus

Busy bee

Friendly finds

Picturesque scenery

With four miles of self-guided walking paths and over 3,500 plant species from around the world, the park contains a diverse mix of plants and scenery. Its semi-rugged slopes help create localized microclimates, partly explaining the ability to maintain a wide range of plants allowing for year-round blooming (with April usually being the most colorful).

Once inside the gardens, visitors can decide among various paved and unpaved paths winding their way among the arroyos, trees and foliage. As you stroll around the grounds, one can't help but feel they've escaped the hustle and bustle of daily life. Scattered about the paths and trails are numerous secluded spots and park benches, each offering up opportunities for inner contemplation and picturesque scenery. Several built structures add to the scenic park-like grounds, including several bridges, gazebos, arbors and even a small pond.

The garden's plant variety also attracts various forms of wildlife, with over 200 species of birds - from hummingbirds, mockingbirds, wrens and woodpeckers to ravens, hawks, crows, jays and herons - having been recorded. The occasional rare bird, such as the turkey vulture and golden eagle, has also been spotted. Also abundant are various insects, spiders, lizards and even snakes (with lizards being the most common creature spotted). During the morning and evening hours can be seen the usual mammals - squirrels, gophers, rats, rabbits, skunks and even the occasional bobcat.

Since most of the key features are easily viewed from the paved paths (which are wheelchair accessible), we suggest a clockwise direction beginning with the Deserts and Cactus sections. From there you can make your way through the Rose, Iris and Herb gardens before ending with a leisurely stroll through Alder Canyon as you head back toward the main entrance. For those more adventurous, several unpaved paths found along the way will get you closer to the action, particularly if photographing, as well as steer you to quaint secluded areas.

Among the Botanic Garden's highlights are the eccentric forms and blossoms found in the Desert and Cactus sections. Indeed the most curious portion of the park, the area contains several exotic-looking succulents, including various species of aloe and cacti.

Another favorite is the Rose Garden, which contains over 300 selections - including miniatures - that blossom with color and fragrance during the springtime. For enthusiasts, the Botanic Gardens offers a free rose pruning demonstration, usually held each January.

One of the most unique sections of the park is the Herb Garden, where culinary and medicinal plants often fill the air with their distinct aromas. Nearby is the Geodesic Dome Lath house. Inside the redwood-built structure are several shade plants, ferns and exotic palms.
Probably the most-visited area of the park is the Alder Canyon section. Situated near the entrance, the park-like area features a grassy area with several benches and wooden bridges shaded by tall trees. Farther back, the pathway squeezes into a small arroyo flanked with pines, ficus, cypress and even palms and bamboo.

From Alder Canyon, those who wish to venture off the paved area will find several dirt paths leading up into more secluded spots as well as the Botanic Garden's way-back areas. Relatively easy to reach are the Celebration of Life Memorial and Bobcat Rocks areas. Farther back are found the Sierra Foothills (chaparral, foothill pine, mountain mahogany, California buckeye) and Australia sections (eucalyptus, bottlebrushes, acacias).

But the Botanic Gardens is more than just a horticultural exhibition. Twice each year (Spring and Fall), volunteers prep and host the Inland region's largest botanical plant and seed sale at the gardens. Nearly 10,000 plants and more than 600 varieties are available for purchase at very reasonable prices (with many under $10). The 2012 Spring Plant Sale takes place this weekend (March 31-April 1). Proceeds from the widely-attended event help fund continuing maintenance.

In May, the gardens host "Primavera in the Gardens," a wine and food tasting event. Approaching its 14th year, the fundraiser usually attracts hundreds of attendees with food and drinks provided by various local entities. Past participants have included Cafe Sevilla, Mario's Place, Simple Simon's, Smokey Canyon BBQ as well as Callaway Vineyard & Winery, Falkner Winery, Galleano, Joseph Filippi Winery & Vineyard. Also on hand have been beers from Hangar 24 Craft Brewery and Inland Empire Brewery. This year's event will be held Sunday May 20, 2012. Reservations are suggested ($60 reserved or $70 day of event).

Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., UCR's Botanic Gardens are open to everyone, with the primary portions being wheelchair accessible. Self-guided tours take anywhere from 1-4 hours. Bikes, pets and smoking are not allowed and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations for school tours are also available. The gardens are closed on New Year's Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

To reach the gardens, enter UC Riverside at Campus Drive off either University Avenue or Canyon Crest Drive. Follow Campus Drive easterly around to Botanic Gardens Drive located near Parking Lot 10. Continue past Lot 10, turning right and following Botanic Gardens Drive until you reach the main entrance. Entry into the gardens is free. However, a small $4 donation is requested and a short-term parking permit ($1 for 4 hours) is required and can be purchased just inside the gate.


Hunter Hobby Park

New station

Arriving passengers

Riding the rails

New playground

Saturday morning marked the public reopening of Riverside's Hunter Hobby Park following nearly $7 million in renovations for one of the city's most unique parks. The reopening also means the public is once again invited to "ride the rails" with the Riverside Live Steamers.

Along with a new (and relocated) train station, the completely refurbished park includes two new lighted ballfields, basketball courts, children's playground, grassy knolls and walking paths, restroom facilities and expanded parking. We especially liked the train station fencing and the installation of two refurbished neon signs that were saved from the Magnolia Avenue railroad underpass project.

Located in northeast Riverside, the 40-acre park began life in the late 1950s as an adjunct "backyard" of sorts to local engineer -- and steam train enthusiast -- Joseph L. Hunter, who laid track down for a personal, small gauge steam engine. The track, which was initially 4,300 feet in length, soon began attracting other train enthusiasts.

Joseph and his brother Edwin started Hunter Engineering. The company was a pioneer of several key, industry-leading patents in the manufacturing of aluminum products (and is now part of worldwide Hunter-Douglas).

Following Joseph's death in 1965, the the park was donated to the city of Riverside, which set up a partnership with local train enthusiasts. Formed in 1966, this all-volunteer group -- Riverside Live Steamers -- immediately began operating, maintaining and expanding the facilities.

Today, with over 10,000 feet of track with several switchable configurations, the club includes both private- and city-owned, 7 1/2 gauge (1/8-sized) engines, with the overriding requirement being "steam-only." The club provides free rides on the 2nd and 4th Sundays each month.



Sources: Riverside Live Steamers, The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside

Hurkey Creek, Crestmore Manor, Lake Skinner, Idyllwild Park, Box Springs Mountain and Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve -- six of the 20 varied parks, museums, recreational and nature centers of Riverside County covered in a new book by local historian Steve Lech.

The 150-page, hardcover book -- "More Than a Place to Pitch a Tent" -- tells the stories behind Riverside County's major regional parks, with background information on how they came to be and how they were named. Numerous color and B&W photos from the past and present help illustrate the histories. Steve also delves into the insights and backgrounds for the six directors of the county's Parks Department following its creation in 1960 (it was previously administered as part of the county's Road Department).

In the book are several Riverside-area parks, including Box Springs Mountain Preserve, Hidden Valley Wildlife & Nature Center and Martha McLean - Anza Narrows Park. Steve points out that all three had been threatened by development pressures before becoming incorporated into the county's parks system.

Of particular interest to us is the background of Hidden Valley. The park, which straddles the Santa Ana River in northwestern Riverside near Norco, had been an upscale gun/hunt club from about 1957 until the early 1970s. Members included Clark Gable, Ernie Kovacs, Roy Rogers, Lawrence Welk, Les Richter and Jimmy Doolittle. Today, the old clubhouse serves as the park's nature center.

We also found intriguing the stories behind Lake Skinner near Temecula, Bogart Park in Beaumont, Lawler Lodge near Idyllwild and Crestmore Manor in Jurupa Valley. Crestmore, with its stately home,* was built for Los Angeles restauranteur and thoroughbred horse breeder Tiny Naylor (yes, of Googie coffee shop** fame). Unknown to us prior to reading the book was that noted Riverside architect Herman O. Ruhnau (Riverside City Hall) was the designer of Crestmore.

Steve is the president of the Riverside Historical Society and author of several local history books, including "Riverside: 1870-1940" and "Riverside in Vintage Postcards," both from Arcadia Publishing. Most impressive is "Along the Old Roads," Steve's in-depth book on early Riverside County history and the factors behind its formation. The book is a must-have reference for local historians.

Most of Steve's books can be found at local museums and some bookstores. You can also visit his history blog for contact info on purchasing the books.



* Courtesy of Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District
** Courtesy of Yesteryear Remembered

Sources: "More Than a Place to Pitch a Tent" (Steve Lech)

Photos: Riverside's citrus legacy


Two weeks back, we featured an item on the recent unveiling of a downtown statue honoring Riverside citrus pioneer Eliza L. Tibbets.

In the early 1870s, Eliza secured two small navel orange trees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for test planting in Riverside. Originating as a mutation in Bahia, Brazil, these navel trees took well to Riverside's semi-arid climate, producing a sweet, succulent and seedless navel orange. California -- and in particular, Inland Southern California -- would never be the same.

The unveiling of the statue prompted us to dig through our image bank for photos associated with Riverside's citrus legacy. Of course, it also forced us to go out and take some new photos for items we didn't already have (and update some we did).

Though certainly not a complete collection of images related to Riverside's citrus past (nor does it include images from other local citrus-rich communities, namely Redlands, Corona and Upland), we feel the gallery still manages to show the wide-reaching importance the navel orange played in shaping both Riverside's landscape and its history -- a history that was dramatically changed with the arrival of two seemingly inconspicuous navel orange trees in 1873.

Photo Gallery: Riverside's Citrus Legacy


Sources: "A Colony For California" (Tom Patterson), "Pursuing Eden - Matthew Gage: His Challenges, Conquests and Calamities" (Joan H. Hall), "A Citrus Legacy" (Joan H. Hall), "Adobes, Bungalows, and Mansions of Riverside, California Revisited" (Esther H. Klotz, Joan H. Hall), City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Public Library

Relocated Marcy Branch Library opens

New Marcy Branch
6927 Magnolia Avenue

New Marcy Branch

New Marcy Branch

Former Marcy Branch
3723 Central Avenue
(Ruhnau, Ruhnau, Clarke)

Former Marcy Branch

Former Marcy Branch

After about three years of planning, renovation and moving, Riverside's Marcy Branch Library has reopened. The new location, near the intersection of Magnolia and Arlington avenues, is about 1 mile from its former spot on Central Avenue near the Riverside Plaza.

The relocated Marcy Branch occupies the bottom floor of an 18,000 sq. ft., two-story building on Magnolia Avenue (with the city's Parks, Recreation and Community Services taking the top floor). The building was built in 1972 to house district offices for the Automobile Club of Southern California. The architect was well-known Riverside architectural firm, Ruhnau, Evans & Steinmann.

The Auto Club remained in the building until 1998 when a new office building opened at 3700 Central Avenue on the site of the former Southern California Gas Co. district headquarters. (Ironically, the new Auto Club building sits directly across the street from the old Marcy Branch library.) Prior to becoming the new Marcy Branch, the former Auto Club building housed offices for Realty Executives (until about 2009).

Completely refurbished to the tune of $7.9 million, the new Marcy Branch comprises 9,000 square feet of space (about double the previous location). The roomier location includes over 30 computer stations, WiFi access, a study room, self-checkout stations -- and indoor restrooms (which were located outside at the old branch).

The expanded children's section contains an environmentally-themed mural, a story-time gathering area, children's computers, and a life-size "interactive tree" that houses a memory game and puppet theater.

Adjacent to the building is a small outdoor area with a bench, grass and shade trees. Directly across the street is tiny, but inviting, Low Park.

Still unclear is the fate of the former Marcy Branch, which originally began in 1951 as the Magnolia Center Branch located at Palm School (now Riverside Adult School).

In 1958, the branch moved into a newly-constructed building on Central Avenue. The branch was renamed Marcy Branch in honor of longtime Riverside resident Charles F. Marcy whose bequest helped provide funding for the building. Its fanciful, mid-century design by noted Riverside architect Herman O. Ruhnau (of Ruhnau, Evans & Steinmann) includes elements of post and beam construction that was popular during the 1950s and 1960s.

At least one proposal calls for the nearby Lucky Greek fast food restaurant -- impacted by the Magnolia Avenue railroad underpass project -- to take up residence in the old Central Avenue library building.

Reuse plans may have stalled recently, but whatever the outcome, we hope a viable reuse -- one that doesn't overly damage the original character of the mid-century building -- can be found for the old Marcy Branch.


Environmental mural
Computer stations

Story time
Navel mural
View toward Low Park

Former Marcy
Former Marcy
Former Marcy
Former Marcy

B&W photo of Marcy Library courtesy of Ruhnau, Ruhnau, Clarke

Sources: The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library

Photo pool spotlight - 11/07/2010


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Got a great photo of downtown Riverside or the city in general? Add it to the Raincross Square photo pool. Or view what others have uploaded.

Riding the rails at Hunter Hobby Park


Last Sunday, we had the chance to "ride the rails" at Hunter Hobby Park, one of Riverside's most unique attractions.

Hunter Hobby Park

7 1/2 gauge steam trains

Kids particularly enjoy the trains

Located in northeast Riverside, the 40-acre park began life in the late 1950s as an adjunct "backyard" of sorts to local engineer -- and steam train enthusiast -- Joseph L. Hunter, who laid track down for a personal, small gauge steam engine. The track, which was initially 4,300 feet in length, soon began attracting other train enthusiasts.

Following the 1965 death of Joseph -- who, along with his brother Edwin, built Hunter Engineering, a pioneer of several key, industry-leading patents in the manufacturing of aluminum products -- the park was donated to the city of Riverside. Not being experts in the area of steam engines, the city set up a partnership with local train enthusiasts -- led by Dr. John Creighton of Riverside -- to maintain the system, while the city maintained the park.

Formed in 1966, this all-volunteer group -- Riverside Live Steamers -- immediately began operating, maintaining and expanding the facilities. The club also started providing free rides on selected days each month (currently, the trains operate on the 2nd and 4th Sundays each month).

Today, with a track length of approx. 1 1/2 miles consisting of several switchable configurations, the club includes both personal- and city-owned, 7 1/2 gauge (1/8-sized) engines, with the overriding requirement being "steam-only." Recently, the club built a new "car barn" to augment an already impressive workshop facility.

On the drawing boards -- as part of the city's Riverside Renaissance Initiative -- are several major park improvements, including a new boarding station, train themed playground and a lake for remote-controlled boats. New restrooms, picnic facilities, a concession stand, expanded parking, tennis and basketball courts and improvements to the nearby ball fields are also part of the plan.

So, if you have a couple hours free on an upcoming "run day" Sunday, take a trip to one of the area's most unique attractions for a bit of railroading.


Steam only
Leaving the station
Passenger cars

Jim Keith
(w/ one of J.L. Hunter's
original workshops
in background)*
Carl Allen
(w/ view of
in background)*
@early 1980s
Barney Root and
John Stroud (standing)
(w/ Columbia Ave.
in background)*

* B&W photos courtesy of Riverside Live Steamers

Sources: Riverside Live Steamers, City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce

Fairmount Park making a comeback

Main entrance

Fairmount Lake

Lake Evans

Plenty of shade

Arguably Riverside's most interesting park, Fairmount is staging a comeback. After several years of neglect, the city recently completed various park improvements, including new gazebos, picnic tables and playgrounds as well as refurbishing of the boathouse, itself a 1995 replica of the original 1911 boathouse.

One of the most expensive improvements was the dredging of both Lake Evans and Fairmount Lake, which were last dredged in 1983. The city spent $2 million to clean and remove 50,000 tons of silt that accumulated at the bottom of the lakes. Both lakes were then restocked with two tons of catfish.

Fairmount Park originated in smaller form as early as 1898 on land near the Santa Ana River on the northwest edge of downtown. But it wasn't until land donated in 1903 by longtime Riverside businessman S.C. Evans Sr. in which the park of today began to take shape. Evans' donation allowed for the creation of the park's first lake -- Fairmount Lake.

A major expansion in 1911 saw elements from an Olmsted Brothers plan added, including a boathouse and Japanese-style lotus garden with arched, wooden bridges (later replaced with cement versions). Although at least two bridges remain, damaging floods over the years have wiped out the lotus garden. It's too bad the city found neither the money -- nor the will -- to replace it.

A 1924 expansion added another 60 acres, this time donated from S.C. Evans Jr. The additional acreage allowed for the creation of the park's second lake -- the much larger Lake Evans. Future expansions would eventually give the 180-acre park its current landscape that now includes a third lake.

Hailing from a different era, Fairmount is chock full of old-school park features, including forest-like trees and foliage, a bandshell, rose garden, lawn bowling club, boathouse, and of course, the three rustic lakes. At various times, the park also sported a small petting zoo and amusement area -- with a carousel (1947) and later a tiny roller coaster -- but these have long-since been removed.

Today, the park is seeing a rebirth thanks in part to the recent improvements funded from the city's $1.8 billion, 5-year Riverside Renaissance plan.

We're glad to see the city's flagship park regaining back some of its former glory.


Park map
New paths

Rose Garden
Leisure time

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, "Colony for California" (Tom Patterson)

Downtown Riverside at sunset

View looking east toward downtown Riverside from atop Mount Rubidoux just prior to sunset. In the immediate background is Box Springs Mountain with the San Bernardino Mountains looming in the distance.

Situated approximately 1 mile west of downtown Riverside is Mount Rubidoux, a small but impressive hill overlooking the city. Rising 1,364 feet above sea level, the rocky hill gets its name from Jurupa Rancho owner Louis Robidoux (note the different spelling) who settled in the area during the mid-1800s.

Mount Rubidoux

In 1906, Mount Rubidoux was acquired by Frank A. Miller of the Mission Inn. A year later, Miller and railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington partnered up to build two, single-lane roads allowing for motorized vehicles to traverse the summit.

Atop the summit sits the Serra Cross, placed in honor of Father Junipero Serra who is credited with founding the California Missions. The cross is the site of the nation's oldest continuing outdoor Easter Sunrise service, which began in 1909.

Also located on the mountain is the World Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge, erected in 1925 to honor Frank Miller. Miller, who co-founded the Institute of World Affairs (later to become the World Affairs Council), was a staunch advocate for world peace. As such, Miller's connections brought the likes of President Taft and social activist Booker T. Washington to Riverside, both of whom made the trek up Mount Rubidoux.

In 1955, the Miller family deeded the entire park to Riverside. The original wooden cross was replaced with a cement version in 1963.

Although severe rains during the 1990s washed out parts of both roads forcing their closure, the granite outcropping remains a favorite recreational activity for pedestrians, joggers and cyclists alike.


World Peace Tower
& Friendship Bridge
Downtown Riverside
Colorful hues

Serra Cross
Vista point
View southwest
over Riverside

Out & About - 06/15/2008


The past two weekends saw us at opposite ends of Riverside. Last weekend, we had the chance to take in the reopened Arlington Branch Library. While there, we took a few photos of the nearby Arlington Village commercial area. This weekend, we spent some time downtown checking in on the refurbishing of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall.

Flash: Out & About slideshow

Riverside & Arlington Railway
1962 Interurbans Magazine

Riverside & Arlington Railway
1962 Interurbans Magazine

About 5 miles southwest of downtown Riverside sits Arlington Village. Located at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Van Buren Boulevard, the village hails from what was originally known as the Town of Arlington. Founded in 1877 by prominent Riversiders S.C. Evans and William Sayward, Arlington was in many ways Riverside's first suburb, with streetcars* running between the two towns. As such, it was included within Riverside's boundaries upon official incorporation in 1883.

By the early 1900s, the area contained a library, fire station, newspaper office, two-story commercial building, local schools, churches and several businesses. The commercial area thrived well into the 1960s, partly on account of being the nearby home to Riverside County General Hospital, a place where it would remain for 100 years before a new county hospital opened in Moreno Valley in 1998.

About a mile south of Arlington Village is the land that sprouted much of Riverside's famous Washington Navel orange groves. Today, the area still includes large swaths of groves thanks in part to the Arlington Heights Greenbelt citrus preserve. It also includes the 377-acre California Citrus State Historic Park -- an actual working citrus grove, museum and park.

Fifty years after the Riverside Freeway and nearly 40 years after the nearby Galleria at Tyler reduced the importance of the area as a major commercial center, Arlington Village is staging a comeback. Recent street and sidewalk improvements and refurbished storefronts have given the neighborhood new life. Besides the newly-expanded library, a recent addition to the village is a large wall mural composed from photographs depicting Magnolia Avenue at Van Buren Boulevard during the 1940s.

With a bit of vision and planning -- and a small residential townhome/condo component -- the village could easily sprout into a nice, semi-urban landscape consisting of more restaurants and shops all within easy walking distance.

Elsewhere in Riverside, work is progressing on the makeover of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown. New low-lying retaining walls have sprung up on the mall between Ninth Street and University Avenue as has framework for a new fountain. The next phase will include the blocks between University Avenue and Sixth Street. The $10 million project began in March and is expected to be completed in spring 2009

Concurrent work also continues on the old Rouse Building -- the soon-to-be UCR/Culver Center of the Arts -- as well as the reopening of Ninth Street through the mall adjacent to City Hall. Nearby, foundation work is moving along at the Regency Tower site, located at Tenth and Orange streets.

Flash: Out & About slideshow



* Copyright 1962 Interurbans Magazine

Sources: City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, "Colony for California" (Tom Patterson), "Arlington" (Georgia Gordon Sercl), Interurbans Magazine

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