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December 13, 1990|HOWARD BLUME

For a sweet taste of Old California, try Saturday's do-it-yourself orange picking at La Verne's Heritage Park.

Right behind the park's 100-year-old Weber House are about 300 citrus trees, most fairly bursting with ripe navel oranges. The entire La Verne area used to be filled with orange and lemon groves, and the self-serve harvest is meant to remind people of that time, as well as to raise money for the park, said Craig Walters, president of the La Verne Heritage Foundation.

In addition to a citrus grove, the park includes a stand of pepper trees, a children's play area, an expansive, centuries-old oak tree, and a World War I vintage barn that houses restroom facilities.

The historic house and barn were moved to the site. The orange trees are the last from an actual grove. They were saved

through the care of a former citrus ranch hand who watered the trees on his own for years before the city took up active maintenance of the park.

There is no entrance fee, and the oranges are cheap--$4 for a 10-pound bag that you can fill yourself or allow volunteers to fill for you. Many oranges are hanging low enough for small children to reach.

And there is no extra fee should you decide to pick up a paintbrush and help volunteers whitewash the old barn, an activity also scheduled for Saturday.

The plucking and painting will last from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Because oranges ripen according to their own schedule, there'll be more picking allowed on Jan. 5, and on alternate Saturdays until the fruit is gone.

The park is on Via De Mansion, just east of Wheeler Avenue.

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