Monday, December 29, 2008

The man who saved Buena Park

Today's photos show what is now known as George Bellis Park, at 7171 Eighth St. in Buena Park. The first photo is undated but probably from the 1940s. The second photo is from 1956. I was curious to know who George Bellis was, did some digging, and found the answer interesting,...
The citizens of Buena Park were alarmed when they heard that the new Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) was going to cut their town in half. The plans showed a 27-foot-high berm bisecting the community, with only one pass-through, on Grand Ave., connecting the two halves. Moreover, the plans called for only one freeway exit for the city. By most accounts, it would have ruined the city.
The community fought tooth and nail for a better plan. Buena Park Chamber of Commerce president George Bellis was probably most responsible for getting the State to adopt a new below-ground-level plan for the freeway with three bridges connecting the north to the south, and improved freeway access.
Bellis spent most of his life in the automobile sales and tire business, and had served as president of the Southern California Automotive Dealers Association. He was also Buena Park's representative to the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Orange County. Perhaps his experience with these and other trade organizations gave him experience in dealing with Sacramento.
George Bellis was also responsible for organizing the creation of the ten-acre Buena Park Recreation Park and softball field on land rented from the Santiary District. In the 1940s, the Buena Park Lynx, the local womens softball team, was contending at national championships, and the community got behind the effort to give them a decent place to play. The park, which was later renamed in honor of Bellis, also served as the first home of Buena Park's Silverado Days festival.
Speaking of the "Center of the Southland", the Buena Park Historical Society's Annual Board Installation event will be held Jan. 26, 6pm, at the Stage Stop Hotel, 6601 Beach Blvd.


Matterhorn1959 said...

Great research and story. So did the Lynx win the National Championships or come close?

Anonymous said...

The Lynx won the National Championship once, and came in second four times. Each time they played the Orange Lionettes for the championship.