ACIL asks Anza Valley residents for help

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Children enjoy free craft programs in Minor Park, managed by the Anza Civic Improvement League. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

The Anza Civic Improvement League is asking Anza Valley residents for help. The nonprofit is seeking volunteers, donations and membership purchases to help keep Minor Park and the Little Red Schoolhouse available for residents to enjoy.

The Anza Civic Improvement League is holding a membership drive to entice more people to take part in the organizing of fun activities, shows and events that take place in Minor Park.

The nonprofit’s mission is to restore, manage and enhance the Little Red Schoolhouse and Minor Park in partnership with the public for the enjoyment of present and future generations, according to the league’s website.

The playground is a favorite family attraction at Minor Park, managed by the Anza Civic Improvement League. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Minor Park is not a public park, and it receives no funding from county or state tax dollars.

“The park’s very existence depends completely on you and me personally. I think many of us take our little park for granted,” Phil Canaday, vice president of ACIL, said. “Our annual expenses are now greater than our annual income. If we don’t turn this around, at some point, the park will be unable to pay even its most basic of expenses, like our liability insurance. I am asking all of you according to your means for cash contributions, your membership, and I’m asking for volunteers to help with park repairs and maintenance. The park desperately needs contractors willing to donate their services too.”

Contractors are needed to help with roof repair to the schoolhouse and maintenance of the stage, among other projects.

Megan Haley of Heritage Well Service has pledged a donation, and Canaday is asking other Anza businesses to follow suit.

“I have awesome plans to improve our little park with things like grass, sprinklers, a jogging track around the perimeter with rest stops and workout stations, a shade canopy over the basketball court and possibly to the stage, regular weekend activities like movies in the park, dances, barbecues, basketball teams, horseshoe tournaments, volleyball teams and more, especially during the summers,” Canaday said. “I am officially asking for financial gifts, both large and small, and for volunteers to help maintain the park, and to help make improvements each year until the park becomes one of the community’s top places for things to do on weekends, and to just relax with friends and family.”

The Little Red Schoolhouse is the centerpiece of Minor Park, managed by the Anza Civic Improvement League. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

The park recently came under scrutiny on social media due to the presence of a homeless couple having taken residence behind the stage.

The park not designed for anyone to live in – it is for children to play in, adults to have barbecues, play games and attend dances and other community events, Canaday said.

The ACIL board members have given the couple a timeline to vacate the property.

A committee had been formed to assist in organizing fundraising events. The Save the Park committee’s first meeting will be Saturday, Aug. 29, at 9 a.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Anza on Contrasas Road, next to the park.

Minor Park is a piece of Anza history. On Feb. 5, 1913, the Hamilton School District was formed, and George B. Evans helped contractors J. W. Shaney and Will Collins build the Little Red School House. William Daniels and other homesteaders from the Mitchell Road area helped. Starting May 22, 1914, the men from Baptista drove to Hemet to haul lumber for the new school. Others who helped put the building up were Gus Wishnand, John Arbuckle, A.B. Baker, Joe Dashner, G.P. Weatherill, Bill Cort and Antonio and John Contreras.

The school was erected on land donated by George Turner and was to be returned to his family when no longer used as a school. The building was completed in September 1914.

When Cahuilla Road became state Highway 371 in 1964, the traffic was deemed to be too heavy and the school site was condemned by the state as dangerous.

Since the school district could not find any members of the Turner family, the original school and land were auctioned off in 1964. The highest bidder was James Minor, who gave the land and the building to the Anza Civic Improvement League. The president of the league was one of the school’s graduates, Henry R. Lichtwald. The vice president was Fred “Rudy” Whestine; William H. Gleck was the treasurer and Leona Hyde, served as the first secretary.

Many public elections, church and Sunday school classes, holiday group gatherings, potlucks and celebrations have been held for valley residents at the park, and still are. Later, the school became a library and the bookshelves on the west side replaced the blackboard and the high louvered windows. The school was used as a church for a few years, as a meeting place for the Anza Valley Chamber of Commerce and as a private school, San Jose Academy. The outhouses that were located down by the trees on both sides of a hay barn and the hitching posts where students and parents tied up their horses are all long gone. The Anza Electric Cooperative installed the original picnic tables and cement platform on the west side of the school.

Currently, the park and school building are the centerpieces of the town and a hub of activity. From the Anza Summer Nights concert series to car shows and horseshoe contests, the park is one of the most important community places in Anza.

Both the park and the schoolhouse are available to rent for meetings and events. Members may credit 100% of their current membership dues toward rental fees during the same time period.

Membership dues and donations assist the actions of other league members who volunteer their time to maintain and improve the facilities.

Minor Park and the Little Red Schoolhouse are located at Highway 371 at Contreras Road in Anza.

To learn more about upcoming ACIL events, visit them at http://www.facebook.com/AnzaCivicImprovementLeague/ or at http://www.anzacivic.org.

The address is P.O. Box 391000, Anza, CA 92539, and phone is 951-330-4411. Email is anzacivic@gmail.com.

To contact Philip Canaday, call 951-809-7604 or email at phil@sat2u.com.

To join the ACIL visit http://anzacivic.org/join.html.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.