The landmark orange grove located at the southeast corner of campus is in the final stage of an 18-month renovation that included relocating the nearby observatory and pond to the grove.
A lighted walkway that would connect the Imagine the Arts Center with the D3 parking lot has also been implemented. The renovation allowed Tom Brown, executive director of Physical Plant Management to assign staff to maintain the orange grove and it amenities.
PPM needed to justify a higher need for care and upgrade to receive funding for upkeep and maintenance, Brown said.
“The problem is that PPM has maintained the Orange Grove at a lower priority to other things on campus,” Brown said. “I don’t want to be the bad guy, but our resources go into the primary needs of the institution, and the grove just has not been one of those needs.”
Michael Whitener, PPM’s project manager, was given the responsibility of relocating and redesigning the pond to recreate the wetlands that once covered the San Fernando Valley.
“I’m proud of how the pond turned out,” Whitener said. “It has been a long project but a meaningful one.”
Whitener and his team of workers equipped the pond to be wheelchair accessible with 12-foot-wide walkways. The pond is 18-inches deep, so it does not have to be enclosed by a fence. Twenty-seven turtles have made it their home.
The Orange Grove, originally planted in 1929, is comprised of mostly Valencia variety.
When the campus was built in 1956, it inherited the Orange Grove and the responsibility of its upkeep. In 1972, the Associated Students deemed the Orange Grove a historic site, and the school has the sole responsibility of maintaining and funding the grove.
Robert Gohstand, retired geography professor and former chair of the Historic Orange Grove Committee of the Faculty Senate, said he is glad to see the grove is once again receiving the much-needed attention it deserves.
“I assume they are cleaning up the Orange Grove because they need to make a nice pathway for visitors walking from the new parking lot to the new visual arts center,” Gohstand said. “But we have to take what we can get.”
Gohstand has battled to maintain the Orange Grove for more than 20 years.
When he came to CSUN in the late 1960s, Gohstand said there were a lot of orange groves in the Valley. Throughout the years, the orange groves were destroyed for land development.
CSUN is home to one of the last standing orange groves in the Valley, and the school must maintain it, Gohstand says. Gohstand says his concern is that once the renovation is complete, the campus will once again forget about the grove.
No money is being put aside for the maintenance and upkeep of the grove. It is also not clear how it will be maintained after the renovation is complete because there is nothing in writing that states how it will be funded, Gohstand said.
Gohstand suggests placing a secure box along the walkway in which people can deposit money to support the grove.
Mia Wibow, 25, a senior biochemistry major, said, “Its nice to be in nature instead of being cooped up in a cement block.”
Wibow comes to the Orange Grove when taking a break from the lab, which is almost everyday during the summer.
“It’s nice to have a garden to go to and see the squirrels and turtles,” Wibow said.
Hilda Loomis, a campus custodian for seven years who takes her breaks in the Orange Grove, said, “The people did an amazing job.”