La Verne's past does grow on trees

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La Verne's past does grow on trees
Posted Feb. 21, 2007

Dark green leaves with bright specks of orange fill the sky.  Under the trees the weather is cool and everything is calm.

For only five dollars you can pick your own oranges at Heritage Park.

The orange grove at Heritage Park has the ability to take a person out of today’s hectic lifestyle into a much simpler one.

Dirt paths lead the way to the navel oranges. The orchard becomes a maze as you wonder through the trees looking for the best oranges.

“The ones at the top of the trees are the sweetest,” Vivian Johnson, a Heritage Foundation volunteer said.

The oranges don’t compare to the ones available at grocery stores.

“They are sweeter," Johnson said.

They are also all natural.

“The orange trees have never been sprayed,” Jane Bunnet, a Heritage Foundation volunteer said.

The prices are cheaper; it costs only five dollars for an eight-pound bag.

“You get more for your money,” Diane Menendez, a local orange picker said.

The orange grove is filled with families.

“It’s a fun place to bring the kids,” Menendez said.

It is open to the public every Saturday from 9 a.m. until two p.m. through mid-march.

Around America, many oranges froze due to the frigid temperatures in January; however, at the basin of the San Gabriel Mountains, these orange trees were sheltered from the extreme drop in temperature.

“We are very lucky because these oranges never froze,” Bunnet said.

This orange grove is one of the few still in operation around La Verne and one of the few that still sell its citrus to the public.  It sits on a one and a half acre lot, which includes the Weber House.

The Weber House is one of the oldest houses in the city.  In 1984, the house was sure to be destroyed for new housing developments.

The La Verne Heritage Foundation saved the house from demolition and moved it half a mile west to Heritage Park, where it now stands.

The Heritage Foundation hopes that by saving the Weber House and operating a citrus ranch that is open to the public, La Verne’s past will never be forgotten and new generations will be able to experience La Verne’s past.

Along with the Weber House, there is also an outback house on the citrus ranch.  The outback house includes two adult and one child stations and even a 1902 Sears Roebuck and Co. catalogue.

The ranch is filled with haystacks, old wheel barrels and rusted cars that are reminiscent of la Verne’s old days.

The Heritage Foundation also puts on other events, such as the pumpkin patch in October, where children come in busloads to pick and carve their own pumpkins, as well as the Christmas farm in December.

The park holds educational trips and tours in the fall for children to learn about oranges and squeeze their own orange juice.  The kids are also given tractor rides. 

“It’s a cozy little place,” Menendez said.  You don’t find too many places like this.

Ginny Ceballos can reached at gceballos@ulv.edu.