Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park - A lasting legacy for Meridian residents
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Idaho has earned the title of the fastest growing state in the country (for the second year in a row). In 2018, Forbes named Meridian, Idaho the fastest growing metro area in the U.S. Visitors are pleasantly surprised at all of the amenities the Treasure Valley has to offer, including the seemingly endless parks and recreation options.
Natives and those who’ve recently relocated here enjoy a vast array of employment opportunities, food options, year-round outdoor activities, and easy access to hundreds of acres of parks scattered throughout the valley. Many residents have heard the stories of long-established parks such as Julia Davis, Kathryn Albertson, and Ann Morrison. Few know the history of Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park, a 60-acre parcel located directly east of The Village nestled off of Fairview Avenue and Eagle Road at 1900 N. Records Ave. in Meridian, yet it has just as interesting of a story as the legendary Idahoan it is named for.
Julius Kleiner was born Oct. 11, 1892, in Russia. He arrived in the United States as an immigrant with a college degree and a command of three languages. He did not, however, speak English, and thus found himself speechless when he arrived at Seattle in December of 1916.
Julius started as an office clerk in March of 1917 with Commercial Creamery Company of Spokane. He was later transferred to Butte, Montana by Henningsen Produce Company, of which Commercial Creamery was a subsidiary. Kleiner was married to Emma Weinberger, on Aug. 1, 1919; at Butte, Montana. In October of 1920 he was assigned to the Orient, first in Japan, then to Shanghai, China. He came to the Caldwell area in 1923, as manager of Central Poultry Corporation, and Mr. Kleiner acquired the farm at the death of the owner in 1927.
Kleiner came to Nampa in 1929, where he had since made his home, and had been the owner of the Nampa Creamery Company for many years. He owned a number of businesses in Idaho and Oregon but had sold all of them except J.M.K. Farms. He continued as the operator of the farms, an enterprise that was the largest milk producer in the state of Idaho until 1966 when that phase of its operation was discontinued.
In 1955, Mr. Kleiner was appointed a member of a 12-man agriculture delegation to the USSR, where he spent 37 days and traveled more than 12,000 miles. He was very active in his community, donating both time and money to causes he cared about. Julius passed in May of 1972.
Julius’s son, Eugene (Gene) donated the 60-acre, $25 million Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park to the City of Meridian and its residents in honor of his late father, who once farmed the land on which the park now sits. The 60-acre park site was part of a larger 240-acre farm, which Julius Kleiner purchased in 1944 from the Morrison Knudson Company, who had used the land to store construction equipment and as pastureland for horses. The land operated as a dairy farm until the 1970s, when it transitioned to a turf farm.
Included in the 60 acres is the “Rock of Honor Veteran’s Memorial Site” a hallowed site dedicated to the lives of sixty-two United States soldiers. Park components also include: a band shell and earth amphitheater; two large, custom picnic shelters and three smaller shelters plus tot-lots, a large recreation area with boulder style climbing walls, playground equipment, water play, bocce ball, volleyball, tennis, basketball, disc golf, concession stand and plenty of open field play; a lake complete with fishing docks; a civic complex with a branch library and senior center; arboretum with a labyrinth centerpiece; public art; 3.3 miles walking paths; and a grand promenade and memorial plaza to serve as the heart of Kleiner Park. You will also find a seven-foot bronze statue and tribute to Julius Kleiner and his contributions to the state of Idaho.
Mayor Tammy de Weerd, City of Meridian said, “His incredible donation has created a lasting legacy each of us can enjoy and challenges us to pay it forward in countless new acts of service, either large or small, across the community and beyond.”