BY DAVID JAMES HEISS
A year ago in November, the Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District was taking surveys from stakeholders interested in seeing what could be done to enhance the historic Gilman Ranch, with its iconic replica golden home that was rebuilt after a house destroyed the original 1879 ranch house in 1977.
The site is home to historic reenactments, and recently hosted its Old Tyme Christmas event.
It boasts a wagon museum, facilities for volunteers to show off blacksmithing techniques, and has a whole setup for visitors to experience what it’s like to pan for gold.
All those surveys the county collected, turned out to be a goldmine of support: the county was awarded a $6.05 million grant to develop what will be the Stagecoach Stop Park on the grounds of the ranch, and will add park amenities to make the site more attractive for use by the public.
Bill Lamb, president of the Gilman Ranch Hands, which raised the money to rebuild the ranch house, is an actor with the Border Renegades group.
“We are excited about improvements and additions that will take place” starting next year, Lamb says. “A community center is on the books, along with some utility upgrades.”
According to Lamb, “A couple of existing issues will be addressed first, such as a new access door on the end of the museum to replace the very heavy sliding door where wagons are moved in and out, along with improving the water lines from the well above the house.”
In a press release from Riverside County Parks, the county worked closely with the community to develop a plan for the park. Features will include a new community and recreation center, interpretive playground, picnic areas, a botanical orchard, disc golf course, horseshoe pits, pathways, a parking lot with lighting, interpretive nature hiking trails and improved landscaping throughout the park.
Gilman Ranch is among 112 projects approved statewide in a round $548 million in California State Parks grant funding, announced last week.
Tony Pierucci, an historic preservation officer with the Bureau of Parks & Resources, says “We’re thrilled to have received this grant. These funds will allow us to open the site more fully to the local community, increasing their access to our trails and grounds. We’ll be constructing a parking lot close to Wilson Street, and we’ll extend our current trails down to it for easy access from the street.”
Pierrucci says ‘We’re also renovating the grounds with an expanded native plant garden and revitalized fruit orchard. This grant will also allow us to construct a community room on site where we can host meetings, classes and wedding receptions. There will be a lot of work going on at Gilman Ranch over the next several years.”
Laurie McLaughlin, an officer with the San Gorgonio Pass Historical Society, which had an exhibit last weekend at the Old Tyme Christmas event, was ecstatic to hear that the county got its grant.
“Some of my favorite things at Gilman Ranch are the historical ranch house tour and learning about how the Gilman family lived so many decades ago; the very cool historical wagons in the museum; the astounding views of Mt. San Jacinto and the pass.”
She admires the pomegranate tree behind the house, which is rather prolific; “I personally want to learn more about the ranch’s stagecoach stop. The ruins of the adobe station are still there, on the historic Bradshaw Trail that runs through the property. We’re so fortunate to have this park in our community, and I hope more people will enjoy it in the years to come with all of the improvements and facilities that this grant will make possible,” McLaughlin said.
Staff Writer David James Heiss is a board member of the San Gorgonio Pass Historical Society. He may be reached at email@example.com , and messages may be left at (951) 849-4586 x114.