Historic Visalia Walking Trail
Jul 26, 2018 11:00AM
By Jordan Venema
Walk a Mile
By Jordan Venema
Photos courtesy of Historic Visalia Walking Trail
FOUNDED IN 1852 by Nathaniel Vise, who also gave the city its name, Visalia has a long, rich history that, as the first town established between Sacramento and Los Angeles, extends well beyond the Central Valley. And for all its years as the seat of Tulare County, the gateway between Northern and Southern California, and of course the gateway to the Sequoias, it was a young Eagle Scout who chronicled its significance in the Historic Visalia Walking Trail.
Suzanne Bianco, tourism manager of the Visalia Convention and Visitors Bureau, explains the walking trail was the 2005 Eagle Scout project of Edmund Gubler, son of Visalia’s current mayor, Warren Gubler. Edmund worked closely with Terry Ommen, Visalia’s Historian Laureate and author of multiple books about Tulare County, and others to put together a 45-minute walk in the downtown area.
“It’s to give people a historical overview of Visalia,” says Bianco.
The walking trail, outlined in a seven-page brochure, includes nine stops roughly between Acequia and Oak, and Santa Fe and Encina Streets. It also highlights seven other areas of interest and marks locations of historic horse rings, which date back to the 1880s.
The map also details sites like Visalia’s first church and home, as well as other civic buildings, and the location where Fort Visalia once stood. Though many of these locations are no longer standing, the brochure offers the history of each site, even placing them in wider historic context.
But, Bianco admits with a laugh, “we still have some people call us and ask when Fort Visalia opens.”
Not originally from Visalia herself, Bianco says the trail has helped her realize the city’s historical context.
“I’m amazed at the depth of which Visalia was such a focal point between Los Angeles and Sacramento. Maybe people think of us as a small valley town, but there have been a lot of movers and shakers here,” says Bianco, noting that Visalia played a role in the founding of Sequoia National Park.
To commemorate that connection, the Visitors Bureau recently dedicated a 65-foot-tall Giant Sequoia that was planted outside Visalia’s post office in 1936 by Guy Hoping, who was the superintendent of General Grant National Park, now Kings Canyon.
“We recently dedicated the Legacy Tree and created a visitor feature centered around it,” says Bianco. “There’s an educational post that talks about the tree and its historical significance to Visalia,” she continues.
In addition to the Legacy Tree, Bianco says the Visitors Bureau has begun the process of expanding the walking trail to include other hallmarks in Visalia.
“We want to increase the tour to include the Legacy Tree, because the tree connects us to the national park, but there are other buildings like the Palace Hotel downtown,” says Bianco.
While Bianco says in theory the expansion of the trail has already begun, there isn’t a timeline for when it will be completed.
“It’s on our list of projects that need to be updated and enhanced, and Edmund did a great job starting this project, but now that it’s 13 years old, it’s time to take a look at it and add some dimension, maybe with more documents or photos,” says Bianco, adding that the Visitors Bureau would like to create an interactive app for smart phones.
And though the brochure hasn’t yet made it to the app store, it can be downloaded as a PDF document from the bureau’s website, which can be accessed by phone. But as this is a history trail, people might prefer sticking with a good old-fashioned paper brochure, which can be picked up at most hotels, the convention center lobby and the bureau’s office at the Visalia Transit Center at 425 East Oak St. •
Historic Visalia Walking Trail • Visalia Convention and Visitors Bureau