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Preserving Chinese American Heritage in Riverside, California
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Chinatown Heritage Park

A Signature Park at Riverside Chinatown

  Map showing location of the Chinatown Site  

Location of the Chinatown Site in Riverside, CA


A "signature park" is a park containing a special community asset. These parks typically contain a unique natural, or historic feature, and help to define a community’s sense of place. Riverside examples include Mount Rubidoux, California Citrus State Historic Park, Fairmount Park, and the Santa Ana River. Reactivating Riverside’s Chinatown at Tequesquite and Brockton Avenues as a signature park would help residents and visitors better understand and appreciate the role Chinese workers had in building the early infrastructure of our City, region and State, while providing a community-serving amenity. Our vision for a signature park at the historic site of Riverside Chinatown is compatible with the City of Riverside's General Plan 2025, California's Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, and California’s Statewide Historic Preservation Plan 2013-2017. 

The graphic below illustrates how suggested elements could be arranged on the site. The elements are intended as suggestions to guide future study and public input after the site is secured for conservation. 

Concept design of the Chinatown Heritage Park
Concept design prepared by Pete Dangermond of the Dangermond Group

After acquisition, the first priority will be to conserve the archaeological values of the site. Careful restoration and contouring of the site some feet above the original surface level is needed. Non-historic physical intrusions should be removed to allow for park-like improvements. Suggested park elements for consideration after site clean-up and stabilization include: 

1. The overall area should have a park-like setting with appropriate turf, landscaping and trees. 

2. An off-street parking area should be provided, and there is a suitable space bordering Tequesquite Avenue at the southwesterly end of the site. 

3. An interpretive/visitor center would greatly enhance the visitors experience. It would best be located adjacent to the parking at the entry to the park. The center should be approximately 3000-4,000 square feet in size and primarily feature interpretive displays and archaeological materials salvaged from the site. These are presently stored by the Riverside Municipal Museum and are not accessible for public education. 

4. The center could significantly expand its value to the community with a multi-purpose room and adjacent outdoor courtyard for educational and other community uses. Other elements should include a book/gift shop, restrooms, and other support facilities. 

5. The primary access to Chinatown should pass through the center and lead over to the primary interpretive resource, the historic Chinatown Street. Interpretation of the street could done with a number of elements. It could be bordered by signage, building outlines, and other devices to evoke the historic street scene of Chinatown. 

6. Reconstruction of the historic water tower which was located at the corner of Tequesquite and Brockton Avenues could be an important feature. This would be used as a visible "marker" for the park, visible to all who pass through this busy intersection. 

7. A small formal Chinese garden is possible at the northeast corner of the site. The purpose would be as a remembrance/meditation garden for both regular park visitors as well as visitors from the hospital across the street. Chinese medicinal plants could be included and interpreted as a tie-in with the nearby medical facilities. 

8. Another community serving facility could be a group picnic/multicultural event space . It could be used for a variety of functions including Chinese and other ethnic group celebrations and festivals. An appropriate spot where it could be located is in the northwest corner of the site. This is the approximate location of the original temporary tent overflow area used for workers during harvest time in the orange groves. 

9. An important feature could be a demonstration garden featuring vegetables and other plants originally grown by the Chinatown residents for local use and sale. Planting of some citrus trees could also provide the connections between the Chinese workers and the groves. A suitable location could be between the events space and Chinatown. 

10. Replantings and interpretation of the significance of the Ailanthus “Sacred Tree of Heaven” at locations in the park and around the perimeter. 


Establishing an appropriate setting for the overall park is also possible through the following measures: 

....Tequesquite Avenue is only two blocks long, but it connects Chinatown with the new Bonaminio Park where some of the historic vegetable fields tended by the Chinese were located. It is proposed that it be narrowed from four to two lanes and the extra space utilized as a path and parkway connection between the two. 

....Provide a pedestrian crosswalk from the hospital parking lot entry to the northeast corner of the park, where plantings and a raised viewing platform overlooking Chinatown provide a restful place for contemplation of history and nature. 

....Redevelop the adjacent derelict property to the north with a related business such as a Chinese restaurant with parking that could be jointly used by the park during major events. 

....Create physical and visual access between the site and cemetery to create a larger park-like historical space. 

.... Provide well marked and visually pleasing walkway/trail connections, including interpretive signs, along the exterior boundaries of the site, to the greater downtown historic sites as well as to the Santa Ana River trail and the new entry up Mount Rubidoux. 

.... Participate in "traffic-calming" efforts of Brockton Avenue through street narrowing, landscaping, etc. as directed by the City's larger vision for the area



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