The KEA Mill and Pioneer Park are still a long way off from initial plans, city official says

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The abandoned KEA Mill in Murrieta still stands along New Clay Street in Murrieta. Constructed about one century ago, the mill served as a grain elevator for area farmers. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

The KEA Mill in Murrieta, which has been the talk of haunted ghost stories and has given many trespassers reason to be afraid of the site, was gifted to the city in 2013.

While city officials said it has hopes of eventually restoring it, due to lack of funding and a delay in constructing Pioneer Park, it remains vacant and in decay.

“The lot next door (to the mill) originally was planned to be Pioneer Park, which they had a pretty good vision for,” Kim Summers, city manager of Murrieta, said. “Unfortunately, that piece of property has a lot of challenges environmentally. There’s some drainage that runs through it and some other things, so we’ve kind of been constrained as to what we can put on the park.”

A site across from the old KEA Mill in Murrieta has been an ongoing idea for Murrieta city officials to be Pioneer Park. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

They’re currently working on a small, pocket-type park that’s going to go in there instead, she said.

“The thought was at some point we would like to do something with the mill,” Summers said.

There are two ideas: the first would be to make it some type of attraction, whether it’s retail around it or a restaurant.

“Honestly, unless someone private came and wanted to do something like that, I don’t know that the city would want to be participating in that, only because we have so many conflicting needs,” Summers said.

Summers said she would like to see the mill preserved as much as possible – which leads to their other idea.

The KEA Mill has long been thought of as haunted by many who have visited the site and ghost hunters. Village News/Shane Gibson photo

“We’ve been told it’s not safe for people to go in it, which is why we’ve sealed up the windows with concrete trying to keep people out of it, that’s a safety aspect,” Summers said. “We talked about the possibility of maybe putting some kind of wrap on it, some nicer fencing; I would like to see us do something with it just to make it a little bit nicer.”

Stacey Stevenson, deputy city manager, said that it really comes down to funding.

“Ideally when we do phase two of that park, given the proximity to the mill, it would be nice to incorporate the mill into that park design,” Stevenson said. “It’s been closed off so we haven’t even been in there – we need to send a structural engineer in there just to see what we can do.”

Given how old it is, Stevenson believed it may be more structurally sound due to how things were built back then.

“The goal would be to, at a minimum preserve it, but ideally be able to open it and have some sort of tours in there if that’s possible,” Stevenson said. “At this point we don’t have a real project, we haven’t designed it, we haven’t sent an inspector in, and it’s really just come down to funding.”

Summers said that the city is still in its growing phase when it comes to parks, and there are other projects that take priority.

The city of Murrieta hopes to one day be able to incorporate the old mill with a new park where tours of the site can be given to visitors. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

“There’s a lot of needs and so that one is just – it’s kind of on our wish list of things we’d love to be able to do,” Summers said, adding that she’d be surprised if it was done in the span of her career with the city.

The city currently maintains the area around the mill and makes sure the fencing stays in place, she said.

“We have a hard time keeping people out of the fencing, lots of people like to trespass on it,” Summers said.

One of the main reasons for trespassing is due to the haunted ghost stories around the site, she said.

The KEA Mill has appeared in many YouTube vlogs, and an ABC program has ranked it as one of the most haunted destinations to visit.

While the site references that it’s a historical landmark online in a basic Google search, Summers said it doesn’t have a formal historic designation.

City staff said that the mill is listed in the city’s historical resources inventory, but it doesn’t meet the requirements to be listed on the state or federal inventory.

The signed resolution for the mill was put into effect Sept. 17, 2013, in which the city received it as a gift from LOH Investment Limited Partnership, the current owner at the time.

Whether the mill will be a part of the city’s initial resolution plans and incorporated into Pioneer Park, both projects remain to be seen.

“Pioneer Park is still quite a way off,” Summers said. “Unfortunately, in the city these days, we don’t have redevelopment. I think when the plan was developed the thought was redevelopment funds could be used for that.”

For the mill, funding is the main deficit.

“Unless the community started a fundraising campaign and was able to help fund it, I just don’t know how we would manage the cost,” Summers said. “There is a great vision for it.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at lhowe@reedermedia.com.