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As John W. North and his small group of early settlers/investors approached the site of the 8,000-acre California Silk Center Property east of Los Angeles they were purchasing in 1870, their thoughts were full of ideas and plans for this new settlement in which they’d invested. Although each probably had their own unique vision of the utopian community they were about to create, there were undoubtedly some common threads, including the view that it would be “beautiful.”
In a 2002-03 Master Plan Update for Parks, planners noted “people of Riverside have viewed parks as an essential component of city life for over 100 years. The robust citrus industry allowed Riverside to become a part of the City Beautiful Movement sweeping the country beginning in the 1890’s and launched an era of architectural splendor and pride in public spaces. The first parks at the turn of the century were private purchases that were later dedicated to the City. Fairmount Park, White Park and Mt. Rubidoux were the first parks of Riverside and became key signatures of the City’s identity. The character established by these parks continues to be influential today. “
The City Parks Commission was established around the turn of the century with Albert S. White, one of the early settlers of Riverside, named as its first City Parks superintendent. In 1928 a formal series of concepts, studies and master plans were developed to guide the City in its park planning. Riverside soon became a leader in the region. Its signature parks, fine neighborhoods and classic civic buildings helped create an impressive image. The fact that the city was the regional financial center and had several higher learning institutions, major hospitals, and two military bases located in and near Riverside, enabled the City to become the hub of the inland empire.
Parks, trails, and open space areas add value to a community, not only in terms of their proximity to nearby properties but in increased visitation and tourism to City attractions such as the Mission Inn and the California Citrus State Historic Park. The existence of these venues encourages people to visit and stay in Riverside. These visitors lead to revenue generation by filling hotel rooms, dining out, and participating in other activities that support the local economy.
To complete this challenge: Run, walk, bike or otherwise move 1K, anywhere you like, representing one historic site in the challenge, for a total of 5K per challenge per week. Take a selfie or another picture of you and your friends at each historic site and share it on www.missioninnrun.org and your own social media with the hashtag #MissionInnRun. Not in Riverside? You can still meet the challenge by completing the distance component.
How to submit your results: Visit www.missioninnrun.org and click on the Results page. Click Submit Results and log in. In the drop-down button, select the Riverside Historic Landmark Weekly Challenge, select which historic site you visited, fill in your distance/time information and submit!
Land for this downtown park which occupies portions of the four-block area between University and Tenth, Market and Chestnut Streets was donated in 1883 by Albert S. White, an early resident of Riverside and real estate partner of Frank Miller’s. An avid horticulturist, White laid out the park, planned its design and landscaped it, planting among other things one of the largest collections of cacti found in the state.
Today the park is fully enclosed with decorative wrought iron fencing and features unique gardens and trees, including a Japanese garden created by citizens of Sendai, Japan, Riverside’s first sister city. The park also includes a raised gazebo, a hummingbird garden with plants that attract these fascinating creatures, rose gardens, a cascading fountain, and a half-mile trail used primarily for walking and running. The park is also the site of many community events like the annual Riverside Tamale Festival.
Frederick Law Olmsted who designed New York City’s Central Park had died in 1903, but his creative philosophy was in evidence when his sons were commissioned by Riverside city fathers to devise a plan for Fairmount Park in 1911. This area in northwest Riverside had been used as a picnic and swim area as early as 1870 and was officially dedicated as a 35-acre park in 1898. (The park would eventually be expanded to the 245 acres it encompasses today.)
Although the plan the Olmsteds devised seemed too costly at first, primary aspects of the design were implemented gradually through the years, including a boat house and improved entrance in 1912; a bandshell designed by Arthur Benton, one of the architects of the Mission Inn, that was constructed in 1920; and the creation of Lake Evans in 1924. The Riverside Lawn Bowling Club formed at the park in 1926 still meets and offers free instruction. A nine-hole golf course built in 1930 was one of the earliest public courses in southern California. The Water Buffalo memorial installed in 1946 honors amphibious landing vehicles manufactured in Riverside during World War II, and Union Pacific Engine #6051 that stands near the park entrance echoes important aspects of Riverside’s past. Even many of the trees that were part of the original 1911 reforesting effort are still alive, home to both local and migrating birds.
In 2001 park rehabilitation began, championed by volunteers willing to pick up waste or provide other general maintenance needs. Their community efforts catalyzed funding for lake rehabilitation and brought fishing back to Fairmount Lake and Lake Evans along with pedal boats and sailing. It also spurred the construction of a $2.6 million universally accessible playground, a great boon for families in the area. The regional Santa Ana River Trail--a multi-use biking, walking, and jogging trail along the north end of the park--connects to trails leading to the Pacific Ocean and, in the future, the San Bernardino Mountains. Fairmount Park is once again, as the Olmsteds intended, a space “held in common by all residents…places were all classes could mingle, free from the competitiveness and antagonisms of workday life.”
Mount Rubidoux is a mountain just west of downtown Riverside that is both a city park and an historic landmark, a popular Southern California tourist destination and the site of the oldest outdoor non-denominational Easter Sunrise service in the United States. Many historic markers and memorials have been placed on the mountain, the most prominent being the cross at its summit. The Santa Ana River flows at its base, marking the boundary between the cities of Riverside and Jurupa Valley.
The mountain was named for Louis Robidoux who established Rancho Rubidoux in 1847 after purchasing a portion of Rancho Jurupa from Benjamin Davis Wilson, the second elected mayor of Los Angeles. In 1906 Frank Miller, owner of the Mission Inn, along with Henry E. Huntington and Charles M. Loring, formed the Huntington Park Association and purchased the property with the intent of building a road to the summit and developing the mountain as a park.
Initial improvements, including the road, were completed in February 1907. In April 1909, Jacob Riis of New York, an American social reformer and documentary photographer who was in town to give an address at the Mission Inn, suggested holding an Easter sunrise service at the top of the mountain. The very next Sunday the first non-denominational outdoor Easter Sunrise Service in the United States was held at the top of Mt. Rubidoux, the beginning of a long tradition. In 1912 an estimated crowd of 3,000 people were present to hear Henry Van Dyke read his poem, God of the Open Air. The annual service became nationally and internationally known, drawing huge crowds and celebrities, including opera soprano Marcella Craft. In 1915 the Southern Pacific Railroad provided a special service from Los Angeles to Riverside just for the event. The Pacific Electric trolley system also implemented special service from Los Angeles, Corona, Redlands, and San Bernardino. Peak attendance in the 1920s was reported to have exceeded 30,000.
Each year attendance grew. In 1918 plans for an open-air 10,000-seat amphitheater designed by architect Frederick Heath were considered, but never implemented. On December 13, 1925, the Peace Tower was dedicated to Miller in recognition of his peace initiatives prior to World War I.
In 2013, with the threat of a lawsuit against the city of Riverside for having a large cross on city-owned property, the Riverside City Council decided to sell the cross atop Mount Rubidoux and the 0.43 acres of land beneath it, at a public auction the following April. Minimum bid: $10,000. A collaborative group named “Totally Mt. Rubidoux” (Friends of Mt. Rubidoux, Mission Inn Foundation & Museum, and Rivers and Lands Conservancy as lead agencies) responded to the challenge to raise the funds to purchase the land and cross. At the auction, this collaboration, supported by thousands of individual Riversiders, raised enough money to support the winning bid ($10,500) with enough funds left over to support the maintenance of the property into the future.
Mount Rubidoux continues to be an important landmark and valued asset to the people of Riverside. On April 12, 2009, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Sunrise service was held at the top of Mount Rubidoux. The city launches its premier fireworks show from the top of the mountain every Fourth of July.
Mount Rubidoux Park is open from dawn until dusk each day. It covers 161 acres (0.65 km2; 0.252 sq mi) and features 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of paved roads as well as several dirt hiking trails. The park is closed to vehicular traffic, but improvements in 2009 boosted the number of daily walkers, joggers, and bicyclists to 1700 each weekday, and 3,000+ on Saturday and Sunday. The hill is also a popular place for bouldering, particularly for beginners in the sport.
The park is closed to vehicular traffic, but improvements in 2009 boosted the number of daily walkers, joggers, and bicyclists to an average of 1700 each day of the week, with more than 3000 hikers on Saturday and Sunday. The hill is also a popular place for bouldering, particularly for beginners in the sport.
The UCR Botanic Gardens is a 40-acre living plant museum with more than 3,500 plant species and thousands of specimens from around the world, with a focus on plants from Mediterranean climate (dry summer) and arid lands similar to California and the desert southwestern US. As a part of the UC Riverside campus, the Botanic Gardens is utilized for teaching, research, and demonstration purposes, as well as for enjoyment and appreciation of nature. The variable elevation and topography of the Gardens (1100’ at entrance; 1450’ at SE corner) and Riverside's subtropical climate create numerous microclimates that allow for the notable diversity of plantings as well as an abundance of wildlife, mostly nocturnal. About one-third of the Gardens' 40 acres remain unplanted and consists of native plant communities including coastal sage scrub and annual grassland. Common native plants on the site include brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), California sagebrush (Artemisia californica) and deerweed (Lotus scoparius).
UCR’s Botanic Gardens is a certified wildlife habitat, home to a diversity of year-round and migrating birds, lizards, insects, and a healthy population of Western diamondback rattlesnakes. Coyotes, bobcats, and an occasional mountain lion have been seen. For your own protection and to protect the gardens and wildlife, do not bring pets, bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades, alcohol or tobacco products. Stay on designated trails and do not disturb or approach wildlife. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Themed and Horticultural Collections
Butterfly Garden: This garden displays flowering shrubs, including many natives, that grow well in the Riverside area and support the butterfly lifecycle and other pollinators.
Herb Garden: This formal garden is planted with aromatic, culinary, dye and medicinal herbs from around the world
Iris Garden: This seasonal garden features more than 150 named bearded iris cultivars in a rainbow of colors
Lilac Lane: This semi-shaded section in Chancellor’s Canyon is planted with true lilacs, selected for their ability to flower in Riverside’s mild-winter Mediterranean climate
Rose Gardens: Three rose gardens display over 300 old and new selections, including a cross-section of species roses, heritage varieties, miniatures, floribundas, grandifloras and hybrid teas
Subtropical Fruit Orchard: This diverse orchard features citrus, guavas, sapotes, avocados, macadamias, and many other subtropical fruit trees (not open to the public at this time)
Australia: Recently renovated, this section features plants native to Australia’s Mediterranean climate zone, including Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, Grevillea and others
Baja California: Plants from this arid southwest region include rare and bizarre species such as boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris)
California Chaparral: This section includes manzanita (Arctostaphylos), California lilac (Ceanothus), and other native sclerophyllous shrubs representative of California’s chaparral plant community
Coastal Sage Scrub: This shrub community, characterized by Encelia californica (California brittlebush) and Artemisia californica (California sagebrush), is widespread in coastal California and native to the hills where the UCR Botanic Gardens is located.
North American Desert: This section contains an extensive collection of southwestern US desert plants with emphasis on those native to the Mojave and Colorado Deserts
North Coast Redwood Forest: The lower section of Chancellor’s Canyon supports the endemic California coast redwood and associated species
Oak Woodland: This section contains several species of oaks from California and other Mediterranean regions of the world
Sierra Foothills: Representing mid-elevations of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, this section contains trees and shrubs such as foothill pine (Pinus sabiniana), California buckeye (Aesculus californica), and fremontia (Fremontodendron)
South Africa : This desert collection contains spectacular displays of aloes, iceplant, and South African bulbs and wildflowers in season
Temperate Deciduous Forest: The lower canyon bottoms contain a selection of trees and shrubs from temperate China and the eastern US including a deciduous dawn redwood tree (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
Alder Canyon: Cool and shady, Alder Canyon features California native riparian trees.
Dome: This lath structure houses a special collection of cycads and other subtropical plants requiring semi-shaded growing conditions. Outside the structure is one of several examples of petrified wood found in the Gardens.
Greenhouse: Recently renovated, this building houses a special collection of cool-temperature and shade-requiring plants (open for guided tours only)
Trails: The Gardens perimeter road is about 1.5 miles around. More than four miles of trails traverse the 40-acre Gardens
Turtle Pond: This secluded, shaded pond partway up Alder Canyon features turtles and fish, along with irises, papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), and Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) growing around the edges. If you approach the pond quietly and you may see a whole group of red-eared turtles sunning themselves on a log in the pond.
The City of Riverside is distinguished from many other communities by its unique setting among surrounding open space. The Santa River corridor to the north creates a distinct boundary between Riverside and its neighbors. In addition to providing recreational opportunities, the river provides habitat for important wildlife and native plants species. Adjoining the Santa River corridor is Mount Rubidoux offering an extraordinary urban open space feature.
The backbone of the City’s trails master plan links Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park with the Alessandro Arroyo and points south out into the County. This segment is a part of the City’s primary loop trail and is currently shown meandering through the Mission Grove Area. This 1500-acre park in eastern Riverside is bounded by Central Avenue, Alessandro Boulevard and the I-215 freeway is adjacent to the Canyon Crest, Mission Grove, and Sycamore Canyon Springs neighborhoods. The Ameal Moore Nature Center sits at the main trailhead entrance to the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park off Central Avenue. It is one of eight protected core reserves designated by the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency to protect the federally listed, endangered Stephens’ Kangaroo rat.
The center offers naturalist-led nature walks, exhibits, opportunities for experiential, hands-on learning and other programmed events. When the Center opened to the public in June of 2014 it also began promoting what it called Riverside Citizen Science, an effort to engage the community in the observation and documentation of Riverside’s environment and foster an appreciation for the hidden natural world in our urban spaces. Through informal science educational activities and the free Riverside Nature Spotter app, participants in Riverside Citizen Science will ultimately help the Museum develop and maintain a more detailed record of how plant and animal life is changing over time in the park.
This center, operated by the City of Riverside’s Parks, Recreation, & Services Department with the aid of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, is open Thursdays 1:00 – 5:00 pm, 9 am – 5 pm Friday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The trails themselves open 30 minutes before sunrise and close 30 minutes after sunset. Whether you hike, bike, or just stroll, the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park’s trail system is a wonderful way to enjoy a beautiful natural environment within the City of Riverside! The trail offers amazing views of the city, chances to see native plants & wildlife, great birding opportunities –all just minutes from downtown! The park is also home to nearly 100 other plant & animal species that have been classified as rare, sensitive, threatened, or endangered. Hike, bike, bird watch, and simply engage in the wonders of Riverside’s wildlife. And, as you do, bring plenty of water, and sun protection. Use caution (there is wildlife in the park) and be respectful the plants and animals that call this park their home!
Here are three trails of different lengths that are popular among visitors to the park. All three routes accept dogs on the trails, but they must be kept on leash.
Sycamore Canyon Loop is a 3.6 mile loop trail that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options. Sycamore Canyon Extended Trail is a 7.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
Sycamore Canyon Short Loop Trail is a 0.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
To find maps and popular hiking trails, go to mysycamorecanyon.com; and . For mountain biking trails, see Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park at trailforks.com.