Brittnie Van De Car
Heritage Park – the last of La Verne’s old orange groves and home to the Weber House – is abuzz with activity this time of year as visitors come from throughout the area for the pick of the season.
“The oranges here are like no other,” said Jessica Zermeno, a Chino Hills resident, who came to pick on Saturday.
“When I bit into one, it was so juicy and it tasted like candy. I wouldn’t mind eating these all the time.”
Zermeno was among a handful of people who came out for the last weekend.
This season, the public was invited into the groves to fill a huge bag of organic oranges for $5 per bag.
The pick-your-own season generally goes from January through March, though last December’s storms meant fewer oranges and a shorter season this year.
The storms also knocked over trees surrounding the groves that destroyed some of the orange crop.
Still, the number of people who came to pick during the shortened season was considerable, said Ron Bauer, who volunteers at the park through the Heritage Foundation.
“Ours is smaller (grove) with only about 150 trees,” Bauer said.
“But groves like this are very hard to find nowadays.”
Citrus was a big industry in La Verne until the 1970s, when housing tracts began to replace orange orchards, until they became sparse throughout the area.
Heritage Park offers one of the last working groves in the San Gabriel Valley.
“You see people travelling from all over just to come and pick oranges,” Bauer said.
In addition to the small grove, Heritage Park is also home to the Weber House.
The house was moved in 1984 from Emerald Street to the current location on Via De Mansion on a one and a half acre ranch.
Since 1985 the house has served the community – through the volunteers who work for the Heritage Foundation, as a reminder of typical La Verne life in the 1920s.
“One of our volunteers is 89 years old and he doesn’t even have a driver’s license, however he still drives around the tractor here on the ranch to help maintain it,” Bauer said.
Besides orange picking, the Heritage Foundation offers year-round events including concerts in the park every other week during the summer, a pumpkin patch in October and a Christmas tree farm during December.
All of these events are to help raise money to help maintain the ranch year round.
“We rely solely on the donations from the community, because if it was not for the donations and the great volunteer staff that we have, the Heritage Foundation, including the Weber House, wouldn’t be in as good of shape as it is today,” Bauer said.
He added that the purpose of the house and the preserved groves is to give visitors a sense of what it was like to live in La Verne 100 years ago and to educate visitors on the city and its wonders.
“This house is in such great condition that I cannot believe that it is over 100 years old,” said Rachel Huston, who came out for the last weekend of orange picking at Heritage Park Saturday.
Heritage Park is located in north La Verne on Via de Mansion, off of Wheeler Avenue.
For more information, call the La Verne Heritage Foundation at 909-593-2862.
Brittnie Van De Car can be reached at email@example.com.