City debates park names

A debate has come to the Susanville City Council, one which has council members at opposite ends of the argument. The question at hand is whether Riverside Park should be renamed Fruit Growers Park.

City of Susanville program manager Quincy McCourt, guided the council through the discussion saying, “During recent public outreach for the Riverside Park project … we encountered a lot of community members and one of the things that came up for Riverside was that it used to be called Fruit Growers Park.”

The argument for the change came from councilmember Mendy Schuster, who shared the history of the area in town and requested the item be added to the council’s agenda for discussion.

At the Sept. 19 city council meeting the topic brought varying perspectives between city staff and councilmembers, in addition to varying opinions as to which history could be considered inarguable.

Interim city administrator Dan Newton, expanded on McCourt’s statements saying, “There are some differing opinions as to when the park was called Fruit Growers Park and when it became Riverside Park,” but offered to follow through with research saying, “Looking back at that history we may be able to determine all that information. It’ll take a little more staff time so we could do that research.”

Mayor pro tem Joseph Franco posed a question to the staff and council, “How long ago was it called Fruit Growers Park? Given the fact that it’s been a long time since Fruit Growers, I guess they used to have the mill here, correct?

Schuster replied, “That’s correct.”

Franco continued, “They no longer have a mill here that I’m aware of and we’re no longer a milltown. That’s not saying we shouldn’t commemorate the fact that that’s where our roots lie … but there’s been quite a bit of turnover in the city since … and I’m sure many of the folks that have been here after the name was changed to Riverside Park consider that to be Riverside Park, since they’re this close to the river and looking ahead, hopefully the river corridor does get improved to the point where it, perhaps, will be the highlight of the city.”

Schuster posed her argument, saying, “Fruit Growers Supply Company came here in 1921, and I think you’re thinking about, in 1944, Eagle Lake Lumber purchased it and then it became Sierra Pacific later. But as far as the history goes, we have eight streets over there by the Fruit Growers Supply Company. What happened over there, according to the local historian, in 1921, Fruit Growers supply came to Susanville and the city gave them all that land over there,” which Schuster said was located, “from Riverside Drive all the way to the railroad tracks and then up to Alexander.”

Schuster continued, “So they named eight streets over there that have to do with the Sunkist Company, which they made boxes for. It’s a big part of our history, the mill. I had relatives who worked there, a lot of people in town do. They’re our fathers, or grandfathers, great-grandfathers now and it’s a huge part of our town that shouldn’t be forgotten, in my opinion.”

Lassen County Supervisor David Teeter spoke on the subject to the council. Teeter said, “You guys have strong arguments both ways, but I do like the idea of tying some of the things we’ve had in the past to what we’re doing right now, for the very idea that people won’t forget,” and then added, “I miss the mills because we actually produced something other than prisoners.”

Before discussion closed, councilmember Brian Wilson gave his viewpoint on the subject and said, “I don’t have a strong preference one way or another, other than, there are more people who know it as Riverside Park, and it’s been Riverside Park far longer than it was ever Fruit Growers Park.”

Wilson continued, “Since it’s been in the city, my understanding is it’s always been Riverside Park once the city was given back the land from the lumber company. But I don’t know that I care one way or another.”

Upon staff direction, city of Susanville program manager Quincy McCourt said he could have the requested information back to the council in a matter of six to eight weeks.