Huge crowd attends Jim Venable Exchange Club Park opening in Valle Vista Jan. 11

Jim Venable Exchange Club Park, operated by Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District, is now open to the public at Fairview and Mayberry avenues in Valle Vista. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

A huge crowd gathered for the opening of the long-awaited Jim Venable Exchange Club Park in Valle Vista, Saturday, Jan. 11, at the corner of Fairview and Mayberry avenues.

Hosting the event were members of the Friends of Valley-Wide Foundation, the Valley-Wide Board of Directors and the Exchange Club of the Hemet San Jacinto Valley who offered a day of fun with a children’s carnival, free food, bounce houses, flying discs and entertainment following the official ribbon-cutting.

The 8 1/2-acre park now open to the public after nearly a year of construction includes four pickleball courts; two enclosed tennis courts, two basketball half-courts; eight exercise stations, five horseshoe courts, two covered gazebos, children’s swings, younger and older children’s playground equipment, two grass volleyball courts, a one-third-mile walking track and large open fields for other sports activities. The park is partially fenced off from the highways.

Valley-Wide general manager Dean Wetter served as master of ceremonies and introduced Nick Schouten, Valley-Wide Board president and Mike Venable, a Venable family representative who gave short speeches.

“What a wonderful turnout. I looked out here and didn’t expect to see such a great turnout for the occasion of the opening of this park,” Venable said. “We have many of our family here representing Jim and the dedication of this park does mean a tremendous amount to our family. For the players that made this happen over the last 10 or 12 years that made this happen. I can’t actually thank all those people involved for making this happen. It was a tremendous effort with so many people and organizations and agencies to come together to bring this to fruition. I know my father would be very appreciative of all you folks that came out today to share this dedication of this park. I kind of wish my father could have been here to see this, but he is looking down on us here and thanking everyone. Thanks.”

Chuck Washington, Riverside County 3rd District supervisor, spoke about Venable as a former county supervisor, saying “He was passionate about helping people. I think this is a fitting tribute to the legacy of that man who gave so many decades of service to this county and this community so I am grateful we are finally here today after all of these years waiting for this park to be a reality… A great day for the remembrance of Jim Venable.”

Also attending were members of his staff; retired Sen. Dave Kelly; Juan Perez, Riverside County assistant CEO; John Evans, president of the Hemet California Stake The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Mike Gow and Edward Formica, D.D.S., from the Hemet Exchange Club; Bruce Wallis, Esq. from Healthy Valley Foundation; Christi Barrett, Hemet Unified School District superintendent, and Kimberly Jones, Friends of Valley-Wide Foundation; Hemet Mayor Russ Brown; Hemet Mayor Pro Tem Linda Krupa; Capt. Leonard Purvis, Riverside County Sheriff Hemet station commander and others.

Tony Ault can be reached by email