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OC Parks celebrates the 125th anniversary of Irvine Regional Park

The entrance to Irvine Regional Park in Orange.
(Courtesy of OC Parks)

It may seem peculiar that Irvine Regional Park is located in the city of Orange and not Irvine — unless, of course, you know that in 1897, the Irvine family gifted the land to the county, and its namesake comes from the family rather than its location.

The then-160-acre park was called Orange County Park, but its name was officially named for its donors in 1928. On Oct. 1, Irvine Regional Park will mark 125 years since its founding.

“The whole community is invited to celebrate Irvine Regional Park’s 125th anniversary, one of Orange County’s premier natural spaces for family recreation and educational opportunities,” said Vice Chairman Donald P. Wagner of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Before the park became the property of James Irvine in 1876, the land was part of Don Teodosio Yorba‘s original Mexican grant of Rancho Lomas de Santiago. The first known recreational use of the area was in 1857, when early German colonists who settled in Anaheim dubbed the area the “Picnic Grounds.” As the communities surrounding the area grew, more families came to gather there on holidays like May Day and July Fourth.

Irvine Regional Park remains a popular picnic destination today, stretching across 495 acres with many more amenities than when the park began. Picnic tables and barbecues are plentiful along with six playgrounds, four softball fields, two horseshoe pits and a lake. Equestrian, bike and hiking trails snake throughout the park.

Food concession stands started at the park in 1907, when then-custodian A. B. Tiffany began selling soda pop to parkgoers. By 1912, Tiffany needed a store and a roofed stand was built.

Paddleboat rental and fishing are available in the man-made lake, made possible by a basin excavation in 1913 ordered by the Board of Supervisors. The park is also home to Irvine Park Railroad and Orange County Zoo, which recently opened a new big cat exhibit.

A paddle-tricycle heads out onto the lake at Irvine Regional Park in Orange.
(Courtesy of OC Parks)

For the anniversary celebration, OC Parks is presenting Shakespeare and dance performances as well as free concerts on the Acorn Stage from Flashback Heart Attack and Analog Jukebox. Guests are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets to watch the shows.

The event runs from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Oct. 1 and will include a self-guided historical tour, interactive booths and demonstrations of adobe brick-making, basket-weaving, candle-making and blacksmithing.

While the event is free, parking is $5 per vehicle, and offsite parking is also available for $5 at Santiago Canyon College Lots 1 and 2 with a free shuttle service.

“The anniversary presents the perfect opportunity to enjoy planned activities for the whole family, including entertaining performances that share the park’s history and traditions,” said Wagner.

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