Historic Citrus Preservation
It was in the spring of 1882 that Mr. E.J. Waite, a native of Wisconsin, planted the first orange grove in Redlands proper on two and a half acres on Center Street. The City of Redlands was, for almost three-quarters of a century, at the heart of the largest navel orange producing region in the world, attracting people from all over the world from the late 1800’s to the late 1950’s. Socially, the navel orange became a symbol of what tourists and the rest of the country thought about Southern California. In 1890, one thousand railroad cars of navels were marketed. By 1904, over one million boxes were sent out in over 9,000 railroad cars from over 30 packing houses.
Today only one packing house remains to serve the needs of approximately the 2,500 acres of citrus that remains in production in the area. Despite this, even today, the smell of the orange blossoms or the taste of the fruit serves to remind Redlanders of the continuing presence of a past life-style and image.
The City of Redlands first became involved in the citrus business in 1968 when it acquired the Prospect Park Grove through money donated by its citizens and federal grants. Additional groves were acquired in the 1970’s with park acquisition and development taxes. In 1979, a City ordinance called for the “historical preservation of citrus” to be supported by crop receipts and park tax funds. In 1986, the voters passed Measure “O” by an overwhelming majority to provide taxpayer funds for the strategic purchase of various lands to be maintained in perpetuity as open space – including citrus groves.
In 1996, the Citrus Preservation Commission was established to make recommendations and advise the City Council regarding the acquisition, improvement, preservation and retention of citrus properties within the City. The Citrus Preservation Commission consists of seven volunteer members who generously offer their combined 250-plus years of citrus industry expertise to help ensure the continuing presence of our citrus history. The Commission is charged with the responsibility of the daily farming operations as well as the harvesting and marketing activities for all of the City owned citrus groves.
If you would like to know more about citrus heritage in Redlands the following are excellent sources of information: A.K. Smiley Library, Inland Orange Conservancy, Redlands Historical Museum, Redlands Foothill Groves, and Esri.
City Owned Groves
Currently, the City of Redlands owns 16 citrus groves throughout the city totaling 164 acres. They include Valencia Oranges, Naval Oranges, Ruby Star Grapefruit, and Rio Grapefruit.
The City’s citrus operation operates as an enterprise funds and has been able to maintain these groves without general fund support to date. All of the revenue received from the harvesting of the crops is used to continue the on-going cultural care.
Citrus Preservation Commission
The City of Redlands Citrus Preservation Commission meets the 2nd Tuesday of every odd numbered month and all meeting are open to the public. For more information about the City’s citrus operation, contact the Quality of Life Department at 909-798-7655.