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Greening up Balboa Park: New trees will replace those lost to drought

Eucalypus trees in Balboa Park
(San Diego Union-Tribune)

Balboa Park may be full of palms and blue gum eucalyptus, but a program announced Thursday will add a wider diversity of other species to the 149-year-old park’s arboreal catalog.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the “Tree Balboa Park” effort will replace hundreds of trees lost during the drought and add to the shade canopy that cools visitors on hot days and sucks in carbon dioxide emitted by cars driving to and from the park.

“When we plant more trees, we make our neighborhoods greener and our air cleaner,” he said.

Added Councilman Chris Ward, whose district includes the park, “This investment for restoring and investing in our tree canopy will be a huge boost to the health of the park.”

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Tree Balboa Park is being kicked off with 500 trees and accompanying state-of-art irrigation under a $378,300 grant from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, funded from the state’s cap-and-trade carbon tax receipts. The city is matching the grant with in-kind contributions.

The Balboa Park Conservancy, which applied for the grant, also is starting a tree stewards program to teach volunteers to monitor the new trees and help with maintenance.

“We had this devastating drought — there’s no other word for it,” said CEO Tomas Herrera-Mishler. “We lost at least 10% of the [estimated 15,000] trees in the park.”

But instead of replacing many of the lost sequoias and other non-native and water-hogging species, the conservancy and the city park department picked out 14 species that will survive on less water, absorb more carbon dioxide and add more shade for picnickers and walkers.

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They include jacarandas, Torrey pines, ficus and coast live oaks. Red ironbark eucalyptus is on the list, but no palms.

The trees will be planted starting in October, after the summer heat has passed.

roger.showley@sduniontribune.com

Showley writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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