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Orange picking has broad appeal

Barbara and Paul Bieau fill bags of oranges with their granddaughter, Jenna Rosbrugh, at Heritage Park’s annual Orange Picking. For $5 a bag, visitors can fill as many sacks as they like. The orange groves are open to the to the public Saturdays starting in January and ending when all the oranges are gone. Tomorrow will be the last day for picking this year. / photo by Veronica Orozco

Barbara and Paul Bieau fill bags of oranges with their granddaughter, Jenna Rosbrugh, at Heritage Park’s annual Orange Picking. For $5 a bag, visitors can fill as many sacks as they like. The orange groves are open to the to the public Saturdays starting in January and ending when all the oranges are gone. Tomorrow will be the last day for picking this year. / photo by Veronica Orozco

Tyler Harrison
Staff Writer

Nestled in north La Verne’s is a piece of history that pays homage to the orange groves of yesterday.

Heritage Park is a fruitful orange grove that offers visitors a look back at old La Verne, and a chance to pick fresh fruit from the tree.

On a recent Saturday morning, the small grove bustled with excitement as children ran through the rows of trees, volunteers gave tours of the grounds and families searched for the best pick of oranges.

Lorrie Rosener explained it is a good ecological experience for her family.

“Children need to be outdoors and commune with nature, ” said Rosener, who has been visiting the grove for the past two years.

“Nature provides what we need and teaches us care and respect through plants.”

Beside the orange grove, the property is also home to a barn, garden and the Weber House. The Weber House was built in the 1880s and moved to Heritage Park in 1984.

Today, the park mirrors a working citrus ranch from 1915, as oranges have been grown in the Foothills since the 1880s.

Volunteer and La Verne resident Ron Baur gave visitors a history lesson on La Verne’s oranges.

When the railroads arrived, oranges were shipped east and a layer of ice was placed over them to prevent spoiling.

Since vitamin C is an important vitamin found in oranges, there was a high demand for the product. Citrus owners became wealthy off their “orange gold.”

But after freezing spells and bouts with pesticides, the industry declined, the orchards were removed and houses put in place of the orchards.

Baur said Heritage Park is now a grove of about 150 trees.

“Forty years ago, there was trees as far as the eye can see,” said Baur.

Heritage Park is owned by the city of La Verne and maintained by the La Verne Heritage Foundation, whose goal is to “preserve a slice of La Verne’s past” through living history.

The upkeep of Heritage Park is done entirely by volunteers who refer to themselves as barn boys.

Half a dozen volunteers devote their spare time to chores such as trimming trees, watering and pulling weeds. Some even volunteer for as many as 20 hours each week.

“We’re pretty good at it and we get to share it with people,” said Natalia Havman, La Verne resident and volunteer.

“It feels good to help the community, working hard and see the fruits of labor.”

Usually, the grove is open to visitors December through mid-March.

This year, the La Verne Heritage Foundation expects their last day to pick will be Feb. 15, as the strong and early turn out from the community has left the grove almost picked through.

Visitors can still fill up their bags with the remaining organic oranges for $5.

Heritage Park is located off Wheeler Avenue at 5001 Via De Mansion.

La Verne Heritage Foundation can be reached at 909-593-2862.

Tyler Harrison can be reached at tyler.harrison@laverne.edu.

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