WHITTIER – Every day, hundreds of tourists traveling on the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway obliviously bypass one of Southern California’s most historic locations. Nearly in the freeway’s shadow, Pio Pico State Historical Park on Whittier Boulevard is a long way from being on par with such Southern California tourist destinations as Mission San Juan Capistrano and Olvera Street. Two years after it opened in September 2003, increasing the park’s profile is the biggest challenge facing state park officials, said Fred Andrews, state interpreter for the former home of Pio Pico, Mexico’s last governor of California. “In the hustle and bustle of people’s daily lives, they don’t take the time to stop here,” he said. “We need to keep working on getting the word out that this piece of living history is here.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Supporters of the little rancho, which underwent a $5 million restoration project, say plans are now in the works to do just that. Friends of Pio Pico Inc., a nonprofit community group created as a booster for the site, has secured a $445,000 grant from the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. The money will be used to connect the park to the Greenway Trail, a biking and hiking path through Whittier that the city is still in the process of creating. Building a path leading directly to Pico’s former home should bring bicyclists and other visitors to the site, said Alex Moisa, the vice president of Friends of Pio Pico. Also planned for the adobe house itself is a store where educational materials and books on Pico’s life, artifacts and acorns branded with Pio Pico’s name will be sold. A tour that would make stops at both the park and in Olvera Street, the site of the Pico Hotel built by Pico in the 1800s, also is being planned, said Barbara Baiz, president of Friends of Pio Pico. “This is a historical landmark that gives people an idea of what life was like in the 1800s,” Baiz said of the park. “We remain committed to this.” More successful has been the park’s mission as an educational resource for local schoolchildren. Mostly fourth- and fifth-grade students from 10 different schools visit the park each month. In the winter and spring, the park receives about 400 such visits, said Andrews, who leads the tours. For visitors, the park offers demonstrations of bread-baking and displays of farming implements and furniture from the 1800s. Special events also draw in community residents, including a celebration of the life of Pio Pico called “Coming Home to Pio Pico,” held in early May, and Fiestas Patrias in September. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!