Balboa Park Conservancy Embarks on Urban Forestry Project

Rubi BaricuatroBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, Sustainability Program

Tree Balboa Park is a comprehensive project by the Balboa Park Conservancy that will bring 500 new drought tolerant trees to the Park through a community-driven tree planting initiative.  The project will increase San Diego’s urban forest, reduce storm water runoff, improve water savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Years of sustained drought has negatively impacted Balboa Park’s tree canopy. Some trees were weakened by the drought making them vulnerable to infestation and disease—resulting in a loss of 1,500 trees in the past five years.  On June 5, 2017 the Balboa Park Conservancy kicked off the Tree Balboa Park project with a comprehensive inventory of the trees in the Park. An inclusive database contains information on existing trees and provided the basis for determining what species of additional trees should be planted.

The Balboa Park Conservancy received a grant of $378,297 from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for this project, and the City of San Diego’s Park and Recreation Department is providing significant in-kind support valued at a near equal amount.

All tree species and locations are being selected with assistance from the Park and Recreation Department to ensure the highest level of environmental benefits (greenhouse gas reduction, storm water runoff protection, drought tolerance, shade benefits, etc.) while improving the overall health and beauty of the Park’s landscape.

Tree Balboa Park represents an unprecedented collaboration among state, municipal, and nonprofit agencies from various sectors to address an urgent environmental need within the Park, and the city as a whole. The project will significantly help the City of San Diego reach its Climate Action Plan goal of 15% tree canopy coverage by 2020.

Jacqueline Higgins, Director of Planning, Design, and programs for the Balboa Park Conservancy states:

“The trees of Balboa Park are a part of the San Diego urban forest and can make a greater contribution to the dense, healthy tree canopy that is a prominent component of the City of San Diego’s recently adopted Climate Action Plan.”

The project is expected to have many environmental benefits including:

  • Storm water Reduction — Approximately 16.6 million gallons of storm water runoff will be avoided, in turn reducing erosion, a major problem in the Park, and the pollution running into adjacent creeks, rivers, bays, and ocean. Reduction in storm water runoff also helps avoid costs of expensive storm water infrastructure.
  • Improved Water Savings — Planting drought tolerant trees that are well adapted to our regional climate will create a less water intensive and enduring landscape. Additionally, new controlled irrigation to areas that used to be irrigated with inefficient and dated irrigation technologies will save the city labor costs as well as annual water costs.
  • Improved Air Quality — Once mature, the large healthy trees will help remove a net estimate of 1,672 metric tons of CO2. For trees planted near parking lots and roadways, the shade will reduce heat island effects.

The Balboa Park Conservancy is making an impact as they work to help ensure park forest sustainability, contribute to city and state greenhouse gas reduction goals, and educate future generations about the importance of tree stewardship.