Whether it be barbecuing for a potluck, fishing at one of the two lakes, or brushing up on archery skills, Orange County residents cherish their outdoor time at Fountain Valley’s 607-acre public park.
It brings a pause to the hustle and bustle of suburbia.
“The peace and warmth that it brings families or even yourself together, it gives such calmness,” said Maria Francisco, 19, a Santa Ana resident visiting the park with her family.
“The wind and the pond and everything, usually it’s calming,” added Francisco.
Mile Square Regional Park, for decades has become an open space for families, friends, and communities to partake in various activities.
But the park’s beginnings only came to be through the passion and dedication of two individuals.
Supervisor David Barker and Planner Richard Ramella who worked tirelessly, sometimes in secrecy, to create the regional park when green open spaces in northern OC cities weren’t a priority in city planning.
Editor’s note: This is an occasional series where Voice of OC works with local community photographers to offer residents a first-hand look at the local sites and scenes of Orange County.
“Early in World War II, the United States Navy Department purchased a square mile of agricultural land in what is today the City of Fountain Valley to construct a military airfield to be used in conjunction with the Naval Air Station Los Alamitos. After the war, the area was later used by the Marine Corps as a helicopter training airfield,” according to Danielle Kennedy, OC Parks Interim Public Information Officer.
Baker, as a county supervisor, worked with Ramella, who was working as a planner in the 1960s, Ramella’s proposal was then presented to the Navy and the Interior Department, and in 1967, the county got Mile Square Park on a $1 lease for 100 years.
“In 1967, the Navy leased – and in 1973 granted – a large portion of the property to the County for regional park purposes. In 1992, the County acquired an additional 137-acre center triangle from the Navy, bringing the Mile Square Property to its current size,” said Kennedy.
Since its inception, generations of families have stepped foot in the regional park, seeing the same trees they saw as kids grow and mature, only to be able to sit underneath them with their children.
“We grew up with this park, I have pictures of my daughter really small here, so it holds a lot of memory and all that history for us,” Savannah Pachecho, 31, from Garden Grove, “Every time we come back and we come to a different section, it’s more of a memory. I’ll remember this, I’ll remember that. It’s a history kind of spot, a memory spot.”
The park also fosters the imagination of what children understand about nature.
“It [the park] gives kids a wider span of what there is to do. It’s not just sit at home and watch TV and games. You can do things that are active, more fun, more inclusive. And the same thing with nature, like trees, the water and the ducks. Although it is basic stuff it gives kids the sense of creativity,” said Pachecho.
“Kind of like nature, just growing up and see how things develop and change, have a favorite tree to come to, and now we see its bigger, and say ‘oh my gosh look at you!’ So I think it’s really important, it gives the kids an understanding of the things around them,” added Pacheco.
OC Parks currently dedicates $600,000 annually to landscaping and maintenance of the 186-acre Mile Square Regional Park area.
Parkgoers can be seen pedaling through the 15-acre nature area of the park on rental bikes, spending the day fishing from two lakes located in the park, or swinging in a hammock under a tree. Mile Square Regional Park is a place of spirited leisure for Orange County locals and many are regular visitors.
“It’s peaceful, and we’ll fish. When we were younger, my dad would bring us here, too. We visit maybe four times a year, but we go to other parks too. I think coming here is a good way to get the kids out of the house and off the screens,” said Huntington Beach resident Letty Guerrero.
“I’ve told them when we were young, we didn’t have no Youtube or Netflix or none of that stuff; we went outdoors.”
The park is home to three soccer fields, three baseball fields, two golf courses and three softball fields.
Wildlife also thrives alongside the people who visit the park.
Animals like Canadian Geese and mallards, birds, squirrels, rabbits and coyotes.
There are even times when the park becomes a rest stop for colorful subtropical birds migrating along the Pacific flyaway during fall and spring.
Here is a look at residents enjoying Mile Square Park:
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