We are

Rim of the World Interpretive Association

Rim of the World Interpretive Association (ROWIA) is a California nonprofit, public-benefit corporation founded in 1982. In close partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, we maintain and staff Heaps Peak Arboretum.


ROWIA’s mission is to raise public awareness of and inspire active interest in the San Bernardino Mountains through nature-focused educational activities. Our vision emphasizes caring for the National Forest, including area treasures such as Heaps Peak Arboretum.  

We’re committed to protecting and conserving our natural resources for future generations to enjoy.

2022 Accomplishments

Because of your support we have...
  • New informational signs around the Arboretum
  • New fencing around gardens and along the Sequoia Trail to protect the plants
  • New brochure explaining the native plants growing in the gardens
  • Irrigation system was improved (solar panels for the control box)
  • Two new benches, with plans for 5 more, so guests can enjoy the space
  • Volunteers in the booth five days a week from mid-May to early August
  • Added new informational books for sale at the booth
  • Maintenance crew used fallen trees to delineate the trail
  • Purchased new snow blower and leaf blower to maintain trails
  • Two very successful Native Plant Sales, Spring and Fall
  • Guided bird walks from May to September
  • Second Saturday educational activities from May to November
  • Panels put up at The Mountain History Museum that showed the nearly 100 year history of our mountain treasure
some cool ARBORETUM facts

Numbers speak for themselves

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Our Story

From illegal dumping ground to forest treasure


Heaps Peak Arboretum was not always a haven for trees, shrubs, flowers and wildlife. In the late 1800s, Fred Heaps owned a ranch on this location. When he died, his nephew built a lumber-harvesting operation—an ironic use of land that would ultimately become the Arboretum.

The Heaps Peak site in 1925

In 1922 a huge fire devastated the area, and only blackened trees remained. Six years later, the Lake Arrowhead Women’s Club, headed by Mary Putnam Henck, organized the first planting of new trees. 

Mary Putnam Henck (left) and Grace Williams officiating at the Reforestation Project dedication, June 17, 1931

Club members and students from Lake Arrowhead Elementary School assisted in the project. In 1931 the site was officially named the Heaps Peak Reforestation Project.

7th- and 8th-grade students with Teacher Miss Holland and Ranger Lynn Correll in 1931
1st- through 4th-grade students with Teacher Miss Bartels in 1930

All of the planting stopped, though, with the onset of World War II. There was another fire in 1956 and, sadly, the land then became an illegal dumping ground. It would remain in that sorry state until the early 1980s.


Fast forward to 1982! Community member and revered schoolteacher George Hesemann was very disturbed by the neglect of this forest treasure, so he assembled a group of volunteers to create Rim of the World Interpretive Association (ROWIA). 

George Hesemann (1929-1998), founder of ROWIA, was a highly respected local teacher whose passion for nature in general and the San Bernardino Mountains in particular inspired countless students over the years.

Together, members of the determined group cleaned up the site, created the Nature Trail and, eventually, a shorter wild-animal-footprint trail (especially for kids), and planted 175 new trees. Heaps Peak Arboretum opened on June 30, 1984.

Arboretum dedication and opening to the public on June 30, 1984

Today, the founders’ legacy lives on. Volunteers still take care of the 30-acre site, including tending plants and adding new ones, cleaning public areas and maintaining the trails to ensure that Heaps Peak Arboretum will be enjoyed by many generations of nature lovers to come.

The Arboretum's Information Kiosk under construction in 1982

With your help we keep Heaps Peak Arboretum and the surrounding forest safe havens for flora and fauna and welcoming sites for visitors of all ages.