When developers expressed interest in purchasing undeveloped land around the reservoir at the northwest corner of Placentia in 1972, the mayor got wise to their plans to turn the near-rural area into condominiums. He got in touch with the mayors of the bordering cities, Fullerton and Brea, and they came to a unique agreement to preserve the land and its reservoir.
Bob Finnell, the Placentia mayor in question, was the key to the deal. "He was instrumental in getting the other two (cities) to join in," said Jim Soto, city director of recreation and human services.
The Tri-City Park Authority came into being on March 12, 1974, and was given responsibility for the acquisition of the land and the planning, reconstruction and maintenance of a park. In May, 1974, and July, 1976, two adjoining parcels of land worth a little less than $1 million were acquired with the help of $500,000 in grants from the county.
With further help from state and county grants, the terrain was cleared, the lake bottom was dredged and dug, and the park was outfitted with landscaping, park benches, walking paths, picnic structures, restroom facilities, lighting, parking lots and an irrigation system.
Tri-City Park today encompasses 40 acres, 8 of which are water. A jogging/walking lane runs almost a mile around the water, and youngsters scamper over the tot lot and its play equipment. Three large, shaded picnic structures are available by reservation for company picnics.
Kids walking toward the reservoir on summer days with fishing poles on their shoulders don't know how close their park came to becoming a condominium complex. The water is stocked annually with catfish by the state Department of Fish and Game. And some local bass fishermen returning from fishing trips dump the bass they've caught into the lake.
The northwest corner of the park has been left open as a wilderness area, relatively rural. Camping permits are issued to groups such as Boy Scout troops.
The Tri-City Park Authority includes two members from each of the bordering cities and one county representative. Placentia serves as the lead agency, accomplishing everyday maintenance, handling permits and requests to use the park and keeping the minutes of the monthly meetings and other records; Brea manages financial procedures and keeps the books, and Fullerton provides legal services. Annual maintenance costs range between $150,000 and $160,000. (A formula for the breakdown of costs among the three cities has been devised based on the population of each.)
The man-made reservoir represents something from the area's historical past: It was created for the purpose of irrigating orange groves. The water arrived via a canal from the Santa Ana River, was stored in the reservoir and was let out for irrigation of the citrus fields.
Most recently, this body of water was called Lake Placentia. But at the turn of the century, it was the Tuffree Reservoir, named after John Kendall (J.K.) Tuffree, a late-19th-Century rancher who now lends his name to a junior high school just to the south on Kraemer Boulevard.
Tuffree served on the Placentia school board from 1878 to 1880. Born in St. Louis, Mo., he came to Orange County in 1870 and worked as an agent for the Stearns Land Co. Tuffree came to own a plot of land from Palm Drive north to Golden Avenue and from Placentia Avenue east to Valencia Avenue. Opinion varies as to whether this land was received as a gift or in payment for work; that surely seemed uncertain at the time when the Stearns Land Co. tried to reclaim the land. Tuffree won a subsequent lawsuit.
There's a Tuffree Hill at the crest of Placentia Avenue as it dead-ends into Rolling Hills Drive. Cecil Rospaw, vice president of the Placentia Historical Committee, said stories about the hill would be familiar to high school sweethearts from the 1940s, who could park there undetected before the area was developed. A soapbox derby took advantage of the street's downhill slope, which was paved with concrete. And Tuffree Hill Park, with its tennis courts, softball field and gymnasium, still exists at the northern end of Tuffree Boulevard.
Placentia's flourishing citrus industry collapsed in the 1960s; the neighborhood was subsequently developed in the late 1960s and early '70s, said Joyce Rosenthal, director of development services. She calls the time of development "the '70s era, when land became more valuable than what was on it."
Most of this neighborhood today holds single-family dwellings and several condominiums. Woodfield Condominiums on Kraemer Boulevard has adapted more readily than most to a trend in growing families. Woodfield is, in the words of association President Jim Norton, "about 15 years old, an older community"--that is, older in comparison to the rest of the immediate vicinity. "It's really a very nice place," he said.
The complex is a combination of row houses and duplexes around a wide greenbelt, complemented by a large pool and lots of open space. The units are a little bit larger than what's typically built today, Norton said. And a home may be purchased for about $180,000.
The community includes a wide range of folks, from retired people to young couples. In recent years, Norton has noticed an increase in the number of young children. Since the condominiums are a little bit larger, he said, they can accommodate families with children fairly comfortably. And it's not a high-crime area. As Norton put it, "you just can't beat living there."
Population Total: (1990 est.) 5,764 1980-90 change: +11.2% Median Age: 33.3
Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino): 82% Latino: 8% Black: 1% Other: 9%
By sex and age: in hundreds MALES Median age: 31.5 years FEMALES Median age: 35.0 years
Income Per capita: $19,267 Median household: $63,852 Average household: $67,745
Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 5% $25,000-49,999: 21% $50,000-74,999: 43% $75,000-$99,999: 18% $100,000 and more: 13%