CHAMBER OF COMMERCE WAS CATALYST FOR MEMORIAL PARK

By: Robin Galvan-Davies

            At the January 8th Grass Valley City Council meeting, I was pleased to note that Council voted 5-0 to approve the purchase of two new pre-fab restrooms to upgrade the facilities at both Memorial Park and Minnie Park. The ability to do this is thanks to Measure E. With this Measure in place, more than $5 million is expected to be added annually to the Grass Valley city treasury.  The new 1% local-option sales tax –– which replaces the .5% tax measure of 2012 –– will supplement the city’s General Fund and help support public safety, parks and recreation, streets and sidewalks, and other municipal needs that might arise.

            Much of the new revenue will be generated by visitors.  And since attracting people to fill our lodging facilities, support our shops and restaurants, enjoy our visual and performing arts and, we hope, learn about our role in California history is an important component of our mission, the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce vigorously supported and welcomes Measure E.

            In addition to shopping and creating added sales tax for the city, many visitors will also tour one of several nearby state, county or city parks, including Memorial Park, located between State Highway 174 and Memorial Lane, near Empire Mine State Historic Park.  Fittingly, it was dedicated November 11, 1922 –– Armistice Day, now called Veterans Day –– to honor local residents killed in World War One.  And, we’re proud to say, the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce was the catalyst for its creation.

            In 1921, the Chamber of Commerce decided to establish an auto park with several small cottages available for motorists willing to make the arduous trip here in Model Ts, Maxwells, Studebakers, and other cars of the era.  The auto park concept was growing by leaps and bounds in California and, naturally, the Chamber of Commerce wanted to advertise that Grass Valley had such a facility to accommodate travelers.

            As potential locations were being considered, George Starr of Empire-Starr Mines Inc. offered the Chamber a deed to nearly a dozen acres of mine property –– free.  And with that much land available, Chamber of Commerce directors decided to create a multi-use community park and not merely an auto park with a few guest cottages.

            Chamber members felt the new city park should honor local residents killed in WWI, and that’s how it came to be named Memorial Park –– initially memorializing sixteen war dead with a plaque and monument, as well as sixteen trees planted by local Boy Scouts.

            Empire Mine built a swimming pool, Idaho-Maryland Mine built a community hall, and the Chamber of Commerce raised more than $10,000 through contributions ranging from fifty cents to $2,500.  In addition, Dr. Carl Jones and his sister, Frances, built tennis courts to honor their deceased brother, Dr. John Taylor Jones, who had been a tennis player of note.

            When it opened, Memorial Park included –– in addition to the amenities mentioned above –– a children’s playground, large picnic area, horseshoe pits, and an athletic field also used to stage outdoor concerts and plays organized by the chamber of commerce as fundraisers for park maintenance.

            Until 1930, when title was transferred to the City of Grass Valley, Memorial Park was owned and operated by the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce –– managed by a park committee and one paid employee.

            Memorial Park has a different pool these days, tennis court surfaces are modern, plaques now honor all local veterans, not just those from WWI, and new features have been added ––including pickle ball courts.  But it remains a recreational jewel that the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically points to when visitors drop by the office looking for a nearby place to picnic, swim, relax in the sun, hit a few tennis balls, or pay their respect to men and women who sacrificed their life for our nation.

            There are several great parks in Western Nevada County, each offering something unique, but the Chamber of Commerce is particularly proud of Memorial Park.  We got the ball rolling shortly after WWI and the city has maintained and improved upon our early work for nearly ninety years.  And now, with Measure E in place, expansion of services and more park amenities are being planned. Thank You to the Grass Valley City Council. Your well-considered investment of Measure E funds will directly impact the quality of life in our community.