Whittier Greenway Trail History
It took 10 years of intense, detailed planning, but it was worth it.
The result was the transformation of an abandoned railroad right-of-way into the Whittier Greenway Trail, a 4.5-mile recreational and commuter bikeway and pedestrian path. The Trail begins on the western City boundary near Los Angeles County’s San Gabriel River Bike Trail and travels through Whittier, linking schools, homes, parks, shopping areas and transit stops. Public art and interpretive exhibits dot the pathway. Residents use the Whittier Greenway Trail for recreation, transportation, exercise or to simply enjoy the outdoors. The Trail was funded with $15,000,000 in federal, state and county grants.
In 1997, Whittier began more than decade of planning, negotiating and acquiring funds to purchase and develop the 4.5-mile abandoned Union Pacific Railroad property into the bicycle and pedestrian trail.
The formal dedication of the Whittier Greenway Trail was held on January 31, 2009.
Since then, the Trail has grown and evolved, providing a lush greenbelt for walking and bicycling from the western boundary of the City at Pioneer Boulevard near the 605 Freeway to the current eastern terminus of the Trail at Mills Avenue and Lambert Road, where the Oak Station is located. Whittier hopes to eventually acquire an easement along the active Union Pacific Railroad line that travels east from this location to take the Trail to the City limits and link the Greenway to Orange County. Continued development of the Trail has included the construction, or anticipated construction, of five “Stations", each designed to highlight a different facet of Whittier’s history, growth and development: Citrus, Laurel, Oak, Palm, Sycamore and Walnut. A sixth Station at the Western Terminus of the Trail, tentatively entitled “Pioneer”, is currently in the planning stages.
Public art dots the Trail in the form of kinetic Wind Sculptures, which provide a fanciful, yet perfectly natural, highlight to the Trail experience. The Trail, while providing a good way to exercise in and of itself, recently increased its fitness potential with the installation of four exercise locations. And Whittier’s public has embraced the Greenway Trail. A survey was taken in September 2012 as part of the National Bike and Pedestrian Documentation (NBPD). The NBPD has developed a system to determine the usage and extrapolate it into a reasonably accurate count of hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly trail use. By using this methodology, the current Greenway Trail usage is: 140.7 persons per hour; 782 per day; 6,015 per week; 25,804 per month; and a grand total of 234,582 annually. These figures include both pedestrian and bicycle use. Whittier’s efforts on constructing, maintaining and continuing to improve the Trail have not gone unnoticed. The City has received several awards for the Whittier Greenway Trail, including: the California Park and Recreation Society Park Planning – Specialty Park Award of Excellence; the State of California Parks Department California Trails and Greenways Merit Award; and the League of California Cities Helen Putnam Award of Excellence.
The Whittier Greenway Trail is included in the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (LACMTA) Southeast Area Bicycle Master Plan. The Trail passes through residential, commercial, industrial and institutional land uses in Whittier, connecting these various elements of the community and allowing residents and visitors to hike or bike through town. Special benefits of the Whittier Greenway Trail to the City include alleviating traffic congestion, improving air quality and providing a scenic greenbelt area through the center of Whittier. The Trail also provides increased safety for those who prefer to bike or walk to their destinations. The Greenway connects with the local and regional bus systems, including Foothill Transit, Metro, Montebello Bus Lines and Norwalk Transit. The cost to purchase the abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way was $3.2 million, and the City closed escrow in December 2001. Construction costs of the Trail were approximately $8 million. All acquisition and development funds come from State and Federal sources. The bulk of the money for the project came from Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Caltrans grants. Also, the State contributed more than $2.3 million, primarily through bond funds.
Whittier Greenway Trail Plant Brochure
Whittier Greenway Trail Bike Map
Whittier Greenway Trail Stations
Citrus Station – South of Penn Street. The Citrus Station highlights Whittier’s early agricultural history of citrus growing and shipping. As can be seen in the Station display, Whittier’s own citrus packing crate labels are incorporated into this site. This Station also includes the importance of the railroad to service that industry and keep the small agricultural town’s economy thriving and growing. This Station is located at Whittier’s original small, industrialized area, which also included meat packing plants – and a Catalina Swimwear factory, a company that, although it has left Whittier, has been in business for more than 100 years - on Penn Street at Pickering Avenue.
Citrus Station also includes the history of the former Sunkist packing house, which is now King Richard’s Antique Mall – An historical building still serving the historical business of selling antiques. The Mall lies adjacent to the Greenway Trail at this location. Citrus Station is funded in part by the Central Basin Water District and the Metropolitan Water District.
Laurel Station - On Lambert Road, west of Calmada Avenue. The Laurel Station features a large demonstration garden with examples of native and low water use plants and information on water conservation in landscaping, as well as information on the flora and fauna of the Whittier Hills. This Station, located across the street from Laurel Elementary School, gives examples on how people may use both native California and non-native plants suitable for Southern California’s coastal desert climate and which are drought resistant and will conserve water. The flowering plants also attract butterflies and hummingbirds native to this region. Several plant and flower species featured are: Narrow Leaf Milkweed, White, Purple and Montana Sages, California Buckwheat, Monkeyflowers, Bush Sunflowers, Common Yarrow, Grape Soda Lupin – which really smells like grape soda – and Scarlet Bugler, this last being a big favorite of hummingbirds. Funding for this Station came from a portion of a $499,800 grant from the State Nature Education Facilities Program, received by the City in June 2011. The other portion of the grant provided funds for the Walnut Station. The Laurel Station development was supplemented by a $10,000 Proposition 50 grant from the Central Basin Water District, for designing, preparing, irrigation and planting the site and developing an information manual. There are several ways you can find information on using these and other non-native and native California trees and plants in your personal or business landscaping. Local nurseries and home centers provide mainly non-native, but drought-resistant, trees, plants and flowers. You may also check with the Main and Whittwood Branch Libraries for books on the subject. The local Native Habitat Authority provided several links where you can find information on and purchase native California plants: the California Native Plant Society has a wealth of information and also sponsors workshops on native plants, and is a good place to start looking for information.
The links to the Los Angeles Chapter are:
Several links to nurseries specializing in native California plants, many in the Southern California area are:
For a list of both native and non-native low water use trees, shrubs, ground covers, vines, espaliers, ferns, grasses, perennials, bulbs and bulb-like plants, click here
Oak Station - On Lambert Road, west of Mills Avenue. The Oak Station describes Whittier’s founding as a Quaker colony and traces the community’s growth from a small agricultural-based community to the thriving urban/suburban City it is today. Oak Station is the current eastern terminus of the Greenway Trail, Oak Station is centered on Whittier’s roots as a Quaker colony, tracing the community’s evolution from its Quaker beginnings to its current ethnic makeup of a population that is 55% Hispanic. Important figures from Whittier history are profiled, including Whittier’s namesake, the Quaker and abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and the last Governor of Alta California (now the State of California) under Mexican rule, Pio de Jesus Pico, whose homestead, now a California State Park, is located in the City, near the corner of Whittier and Pioneer Boulevard.
Palm Station – The Palm Station, located at Palm Park, pays tribute to Whittier’s varied architectural history, predominantly Spanish, Victorian and Craftsman, which will ultimately be represented by a series of bird houses showing in miniature the variety of home styles in Whittier. As you walk along the Greenway Trail, you are also able see these styles in their full-size glory, or you can leave the Trail and explore the Whittier Historic Residential District, a glorious montage of these and other styles that give Whittier its unique architectural identity, as well as seeing how architectural styles changed and evolved with the times, adapting to California’s coastal desert climate and changing economics. Palm Station also features a seating area under a vine-draped pergola that was constructed by the Whittier Conservancy, using wooden columns saved from the former Fred C. Nelles School site and the former Theisen Building from Uptown Whittier. Funding for the Palm Station pergola was provided by a grant from Southern California Edison Company through the Whittier Conservancy. Palm Station also includes both Trail Wind Sculptures and Trail fitness equipment, described in detail below.
Sycamore Station - On Whittier Boulevard near Five Points. The Sycamore Station recognizes the native California Sycamore trees and describes the history of surface transportation in Whittier, from wagons and trains to the early automobiles that traveled along the path of a pre-Whittier Boulevard. An old railroad "Salt Lake Route" logo is also displayed. Sycamore Station also pays tribute to the unique mid-20th century teenage phenomenon of "cruising Whittier Boulevard" on Friday and Saturday nights. This activity has been immortalized in the song, "Let’s Take a Trip Down Whittier Boulevard," by "Thee Midniters," one of the first Chicano cross-over bands in the 20th century. This Station also ties into the historic Pickering Avenue and Whittier Boulevard railroad bridges, which have been rebuilt using the original plans. The third set of Wind Sculptures, described below, are also near this location, and provide a lovely – and mesmerizing – display of light and motion for motorists traveling east on Washington Boulevard to Whittier Boulevard. Funded by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.
Walnut Station - On Whittier Boulevard at Pacific Place. Plans are underway for the Walnut Station as it honors the history of Whittier’s once thriving nut industry and also features a bioswale to manage urban run-off, along with a description of the bioswale’s water conservation benefits. The Walnut Station pays homage to Whittier’s most beloved and well-known tree, a venerable Paradox Hybrid Walnut Tree planted in 1907, all that is left of what was once a major industry in the early agricultural days of the City. This revered tree is given extra-special care to ensure that it will continue to grace Whittier Boulevard, despite its advanced age, for as long as possible. Annually, the tree is inspected, given special fertilizer and sprayed to prevent pests. In addition, the tree’s descendants may also one day be as recognizable as their parent. Seedlings which have sprouted from the old tree have been carefully dug up by Parks Division staff and will eventually be planted at the Walnut Station. This effort will ensure that the Paradox Hybrid Walnut Tree will always be a part of Whittier, even after the original tree is gone. A bioswale has also been constructed from Pacific Place to Pickering Avenue to manage an existing storm water and urban runoff problem, so the Station will include information on bioswales and their water conservation benefits. Funding for this Station came from a portion of a $499,800 grant from the State Nature Education Facilities Program, received by the City in June 2011. The other portion of the grant provided funds for the Laurel Station.
Whittier Greenway Trail Wind Sculptures
Kinetic Wind Sculptures by New Mexican artist Lyman Whitaker dot the Greenway Trail, located at three Stations: Palm Station at Palm Park; Sycamore Station near Whittier Boulevard and Five Points; and Oak Station at Mills Avenue and Lambert Road.These Wind Sculptures provide additional points of style and visual interest to the Trail. Designed to resemble actual trees and flowers, the sculptures twirl and rotate in the faintest of breezes, each moving at different speeds as a result of their individual construction. The Wind Sculptures undulating movements reflect the mood of the wind and generate joy, dancing to the rhythms of nature. The works can be viewed from any angle, creating various patterns in both organic and mystical themes. With the ever-changing nature of the wind, the sculptures move and interact with one another in their groupings. Some are spirited and dynamic, while others are slower and more elegant. The stylized, but naturalistic pieces swirl in mesmerizing circles to catch the eye and lift the spirit. Varying shapes and forms unveil themselves as one moves by or through the sculptures. A casual glance at the sculptures will reveal a new form not previously noticed or predict what the weather has in store for the day. As the years pass, the copper and stainless steel sculptures will develop an organic patina, making them even more part of the natural environment of the Greenway Trail. Funding for the Wind Sculptures was provided by the Whittier Art in Public Places Committee and program.
Whittier Greenway Trail Exercise Equipment Dedicated
In addition to providing a pleasant way to walk or bike along the Whittier Greenway Trail for exercise, a new facet to increase the physical fitness benefits of the Trail was unveiled on Wednesday, October 10, 2012.
Four exercise equipment stations – all with different pieces of equipment – are located at Palm Park, Whittier Blvd./Mar Vista, Lambert/Coachman and Lambert/Mills. The outdoor equipment is designed so that a person’s body weight provides the resistance. Use of the equipment at all stations will provide a full-body workout, and is designed to be used by anyone ages 14 years through senior citizen.
Dedication ceremonies were held at the Palm Park fitness station. Approximately 65 attended, including City officials; representatives from the Whittier Community Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, both of which provided the funding for the equipment; and Trail users.
The Whittier Community Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to providing support for programs to benefit the Whittier community and seeks assistance from various local agencies to achieve this goal. Through its various fund-raising events, such as “Dancing with the Whittier Stars,” “Paws 4 A Cause” and the “Spooktacular 5K Run,” the Foundation raised $50,072 towards the project, which was supplemented by a $22,500 grant from Kaiser Permanente Downey Medical Center and a $5,000 grant from Southern California Edison to complete the funds necessary to purchase and install the equipment.
Whittier Greenway Trail Awards
Several organizations have recently recognized the Whittier Greenway Trail for its design, operation, and community benefit. The City Council was pleased to accept these awards and is thankful that the trail was purchased, designed and constructed with regional, state, and federal funds, leaving our limited City funds to be used on other community priorities.
California Park and Recreation Society
Park Planning - Specialty Park
Award of Excellence
State of California Parks
California Trails and Greenways
League of California Cities
Award of Excellence
Press Release: Whittier Greenway Trail Awarded CPRS Award of Excellence
Please direct questions and/or comments about this project to:
Fran Shields, Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services at: (562) 567-9400 or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org