Parks in Inland Empire named for veterans, fallen officers, leaders – San Bernardino Sun

Many parks across the Inland Empire are named for people, deceased or living.

Some carry the names of community members, government leaders or military veterans.

Here’s a look at 10 such parks in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and the stories behind the names.

Name: Adrienne Mitchell Memorial Park

City: Moreno Valley

Details: The park was named after Adrienne Mitchell, one of the first women from Moreno Valley to die during combat in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The 20-year-old Army private was killed in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm and was one of three women and 25 men killed.

In 2015, the park’s plaque was stolen and then replaced. The new plaque presented an opportunity to rededicate the park to Mitchell.

Amenities: The almost-5-acre park includes four basketball courts, horseshoes, picnic areas, a walking path and a playground.

Address: 22631 Bay Ave., Moreno Valley

Name: Elmer Digneo Park

City: Loma Linda

Details: The park named after Loma Linda’s former mayor sits at 6.4 acres.

Digneo, who died in 2007, served the community after his retirement in 1994. He was on the city’s first city council in 1970 and spent 24 years on the dais.

Amenities: The park includes two baseball fields, a playground and picnic areas.

Address: 10899 Parkland St., Loma Linda

Name: Ronald Reagan Sports Park

A statue of the former president stands at Ronald Reagan Sports Park in Temecula. (File photo by Frank Bellino, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
A statue of the former president stands at Ronald Reagan Sports Park in Temecula. (File photo by Frank Bellino, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

City: Temecula

Details: Formally known as the Rancho California Sports Park, Ronald Reagan Sports Park is named after the U.S. president who served two terms starting in 1981. Reagan died in 2004 after battling Alzheimer’s disease for almost a decade. He was known for ending the Cold War after signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987 to reduce nuclear arms.

In 2011, a monument of Reagan was added to the park to celebrate Temecula volunteers who built the park — whom the president recognized in a March 1983 speech.

Amenities: The 128-acre park includes a baseball field, picnic areas and a recreation center that includes two soccer fields and a children’s play area.

Address: 30875 Rancho Vista Road, Temecula

Name: Margaret Todd Park

City: Rialto

Details: The park was named after Todd, who migrated from Scotland to Riverside in 1915, then to Rialto 15 years later, her obituary states. Todd was a kindergarten teacher in the Rialto Unified School District until her retirement in 1965. In 1983, she was inducted into the San Bernardino County Teacher’s Hall of Fame. She died in 1986.

Amenities: The park includes a skate park, a playground and picnic areas.

Address: 201 N. Willow Ave., Rialto

Name: Contreras Park

City: Corona

Details: It’s named after Miguel Zaragoza Contreras, a Marines lance corporal who served during the Vietnam War. He grew up in Corona and died in the Quang Nam area of Vietnam in 1967, according to the park plaque.

A July 1967 issue of the Corona Daily Independent newspaper reported that Contreras was the seventh death of a Corona-Norco young man in the war.

Amenities: The corner park includes a horseshoe pit and picnic area.  At less than 1/4 of an acre, it  is considered a pocket park.

Address: 902 Railroad St., Corona

Name: James R. Bryant Park

City: Ontario

Details: James R. Bryant Park was dedicated in 2002. Bryant was born in Inglewood in 1926. At age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was the first Master Chief Journalist in the active reserve, the city website states. Bryant was the first civilian spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and sports editor for the Ontario Daily Report, now the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. He died in 2016.

Amenities: The park includes a basketball court, playgrounds and restrooms.

Address: 648 W. D St., Ontario

Name: Aaron J. Ward Park

City: San Jacinto

Details: The 5.8-acre park is named after Ward, a private first class in the U.S. Army who served in AI Anbar, Iraq. He died in May 2008 at age 19 of wounds suffered during a search for weapons and insurgents, his biography for the Fallen Heroes Project, a database for Gold Star families, states.

While Ward was born in Oregon, he grew up in San Jacinto, the biography states. He was part of a military family that spanned four generations and three wars, according to his biography.

Amenities: The park includes picnic areas, a playground and two basketball half-courts.

Address: 404 La Clarita Ave., San Jacinto

Hall of Fame NFL player Anthony Muñoz speaks Saturday, June 19, 2021, about the importance of the COVID-19 at the Ontario park named for him. (File photo by John Valenzuela, Contributing Photographer)
Hall of Fame NFL player Anthony Muñoz speaks Saturday, June 19, 2021, about the importance of the COVID-19 at the Ontario park named for him. (File photo by John Valenzuela, Contributing Photographer)

Name: Anthony Muñoz Hall of Fame Park

City: Ontario

Details: Muñoz Park was named after retired NFL player Anthony Muñoz in June 1998, the city’s website states. Muñoz grew up in Ontario, is a USC alum and played for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

Muñoz appeared at the park in 2021 and gave a speech to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, hoping to bring up the vaccination rates in the Inland Empire.

Amenities: The park includes two basketball courts, a playground, a community center, three soccer fields and two softball fields.

Address:1240 W. 4th St., Ontario

Name: Haugen Park 

City: San Jacinto

Details: At the corner of Peaceful and Dusk lanes, is Haugen Park, named after slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael P. Haugen.

In 1997, Haugen and his partner, Deputy James Lehmann Jr., were killed after answering a domestic violence call in east Cabazon, when the husband of the victim opened fire, according to a biography by the sheriff’s department.

Timothy Russell, 36, the gunman was charged with murder and sentenced to death. Russell died by suicide in 2013.

Haugen-Lehmann Way, an exit on the 10 Freeway, was dedicated to the two officers near Whitewater and the area where the ambush occurred.

Amenities: The 2.47-acre park includes two playgrounds for toddlers ages 2 through 5 and another for older kids, picnic areas and a bicycle rack, the city website states.

Address: 1099 Peaceful Lane, San Jacinto

Name: Michael “Mike” Naggar Community Park

City: Temecula

Details: The park is named after a retired Temecula city councilmember and mayor.

Naggar retired in 2020 after nearly 21 years on the council. While Naggar is still living, the park’s name honors his years as a community leader.

Amenities: The park includes a dog park, baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, playgrounds and a roller hockey rink.

Address: 29119 Margarita Road, Temecula

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