Pala Community Park gets a new name

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Pala Community Park in Temecula is getting a new name: Friendship Park.

The name change comes at the request of Councilmember Mike Naggar, who said he has long thought about finding a new name for the 25-year-old park and thought Friendship Park would be fitting in light of recent conversations Temecula has had about racism and diversity.

Naggar recommended the new name at the July 28 Temecula City Council meeting, and after the proposal garnered unanimous support from the Temecula Community Services Commission Aug. 10, the City Council voted unanimously Aug. 25 to adopt the new name.

“The renaming of this park is something that has been on my radar screen for years, just like we changed the name of Pala Road to Pechanga Parkway – there was really no connection to the name of the park in the city, it just was and it was kept that way,” Naggar said Aug. 25. “And of course, the city council negotiated by virtue of the development next door an upgrade to the park and also using special needs component, and then the city started to dive into all of the inclusion and diversity work, so this all kind of folds in.”

Kevin Hawkins, director of Temecula Community Services, gave city staff’s presentation to the city council on the name change, which will come at a cost of about $12,000-$15,000 for creating new signage.

“Although this is another virtual Zoom council meeting, it’s kind of fitting that you’re in the Jeff Comerchero Council Chambers for this item, because Jeff used to say ‘Play is the work of children,’” Hawkins said, “And along those lines, what’s being championed here by another council statesman is that all children, no matter socioeconomic background, ethnicity or ability, are welcome, appreciated and loved.”

A city staff report said the new park name is “inspired by the city’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

The park will feature additional park elements such as graphics and art that will demonstrate “new friends can be made daily as part of the Temecula way.”

According to city staff: “Friendship Park provides the ideal setting for friendships to develop and flourish among young children embracing diversity and inclusion for generations to come. The inclusionary components incorporate site plan improvements designed to enhance accessibility for all children to be able to play together, including new playground equipment compatible for individuals with special needs.”

Naggar said he would like to see the park become a center for cultural events and “a true place of friendship.”

“I’d like to see elements of that park that depict different races, ethnicities and also abilities,” Naggar said. “I’d love to see them depicted in a way so that when a child comes to this park, not only do they see themselves and go ‘wow, OK. There I am,’ but also see all of the other depictions of all of the other different types of children and races and abilities and say ‘oh, that’s just normal.’ left alone will always find a way to play without those distinctions.”

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.