|La Verne’s Heritage Park opens its gates every Saturday morning to allow local citizens to pick oranges. Opening at 9:30 a.m. and closing at around 3 p.m., the park charges a small fee for a bag full of oranges. The park attracts visitors not only from La Verne but the surrounding communities, such as Pomona, the hometown of Brett Landis and his daughter.
Orange picking is still a popular event in La Verne. This season more people than ever turned out despite the fact that it was rained out two weeks in a row.
Pickers last weekend came from as far away as Upland to enjoy a family day of orange picking at La Verne’s Heritage Park.
The event is held Saturdays from January to March – as oranges last.
“The park is busier than normal this year, but unfortunately the orange crop is smaller than normal,” volunteer Bill Heaton said.
Betty Heaton, who is also a volunteer at the Heritage Park said orange picking brought back many childhood memories from when the local area was all orange groves.
“It’s very popular, and you see the same people come back year after year to pick the oranges. Although we were closed for a few weeks due to the mud and people not wanting to pick in the rain,” Heaton said.
Adults bring their children, and their grandchildren, to teach them about the traditional economy and landscape of La Verne before the orange groves were taken out and the land was developed.
“I think it’s really sad that the state paves good farmland for homes and strip malls, although that’s likely to change with the way the economy’s going,” said Brett Landis, who was there with his family.
“There’s so much more than just oranges here,” Landis said.
“There are so few places that you can learn about the Southern California economy and I think it’s good that a community like La Verne is able to maintain a park like this,” Landis said.
Marilyn Mitchell, who was orange picking for the first time with her grandsons, said that she thought it was a wonderful community idea and the fact it is available to the public was brilliant.
“This is the only working grove in the San Gabriel Valley and I’m glad it’s here,” Mitchell said.
“The kids think it’s cool and it’s their first time here,” said Gary Hester, who came orange picking with his children.
“I’ve driven by this place a hundred times but never stopped until now,” Hester said.
“We have oranges trees in the yard but this is much more fun for the kids. I never get this much help at home,” Hester added.
When Hester asked his children if they wanted to return next year the response was a unanimous loud “yes.”
As well as two types of oranges, navel and valencia, Heritage Park also grows grapefruits and lemons for picking in the winter and pumpkins for the autumn.
For 10 days in March, there is a March Orange Squeeze where children learn more about the oranges while having fun at the same time.
La Verne Heritage Park also contains one of the cities oldest buildings, the Weber House.
The house, which was built in 1880, when most of the area was still orange groves, was saved from demolition in the 1980s.
Though the orange picking is over for the season, Heritage Park hosts other events throughout the year.
For more information, visit laverneheritage.org.
Diane Scott can be reached at email@example.com