Dear Friends, Partners and Collaborators: 

What a year 2016 has been for the Balboa Park Conservancy! We are grateful for the amazing growth in our family of donors and the collaborations this resource base has enabled. The Conservancy has been actively gathering data, preparing plans, and building support for a wide range of projects that will enhance the park. We are envisioning together the best version of Balboa Park we can and working to sustain everything that is already so very special about this remarkable place we all love so much.

A few of the projects and programs we have undertaken in 2016 are described below:

Botanical Building Design
The iconic Botanical Building is long overdue for restoration, and in partnership with the City of San Diego, the Balboa Park Conservancy is leading the charge. The project, expected to take 24 months to complete, will position the Botanical Building and surrounding gardens as the horticultural heart of Balboa Park—a dynamic hub for the 20 public gardens located throughout the park.In early 2016, we created a steering committee to lead the planning and design phase of the restoration. Through an intensive RFP process, we selected RNT Architects and Spurlock Landscape Architects to execute project plans for this historic building and surrounding landscape located in the central mesa of Balboa Park. Tres Fromme, the lead horticulturist on the team, led a design workshop with the steering committee to envision the best version of the Botanical Building and Gardens possible. Architectural plans have since been approved, and our donor recognition system is currently under review. We plan to break ground in 2017.

Balboa Park JPG

Nate’s Point Dog Park
Many trees in Balboa Park have unfortunately been lost during the drought, or due to insects, disease, age, and stress. This was especially apparent at Nate’s Point, located on the 6th Avenue side of the Cabrillo Bridge. With the help of a Dream Dog Park grant from Beneful for the enhancement of Nate’s Point, Conservancy volunteers worked with the City of San Diego Department of Park & Recreation to plant 18 trees—all of which are thriving almost a year later. As the saplings mature, the pups playing at Nate’s Point will enjoy the cool shade of these water-friendly trees. Also in 2016, our landscape architecture interns Juliana Welch andNatalie Montoya from California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo worked with members of the community to dream big about ways to further improve the beloved community dog park.

nates point planting trees

December Nights, Food Trucks, and More!
This year’s December Nights event, co-produced with the City of San Diego, was certainly one for the ages! In addition to partnering with us for December Nights, the annual Halloween Family Day, and spring Garden Party, the city’s Park & Recreation Department helped us bring thousands of visitors to Balboa Park for food truck events. The re-activated Plaza de Panama became a foodie’s delight when we hosted over a dozen gourmet food trucks on select Friday evenings through the summer and fall, and then again over the holidays. Park-goers enjoyed San Diego’s most notable mobile meals while listening to free live music performances and taking advantage of special extended museum hours and activities for families.


Visitors Center
Located in the heart of the park in the aptly named House of Hospitality, the Conservancy’s Visitors Center served almost 500,000 people in 2016, assuring that their visit to Balboa Park was informed, safe, and enjoyable. Our army of well-trained volunteers answered questions and distributed park maps to people visiting from all over the US and the world. One multilingual staff member used all of her language skills daily. In 2016 we formed a task force to determine how best to expand our volunteer program into a full-fledged Service Enterprise, to offer a range of volunteer opportunities throughout the park.

Pointing the Way: Signage and Wayfinding in Balboa Park
Visitors are often confused about where to go when they visit the park, and many of the signs throughout Balboa Park are worn out or no longer valid. To address this issue, the Conservancy tapped one of the most noted environmental graphics firms in the nation, RSM Design from San Clemente, to help us inventory and analyze signage leading to and within the park. Harry Mark, Design Principal with RSM, presented the findings to more than 100 park stakeholders attending the Conservancy’s Community Workshop in November. Mark and his team led the attendees in an exercise to provide insight and develop recommendations for improving signage and wayfinding in the park.

wayfinding group

Launch of the Conservancy’s Giving Society
Over the past year we hosted hundreds of visitors on “insider” walking tours of our mission. I’m incredibly grateful for all of our new connections, and must thank especially the founding members of our multi-year giving society, the Conservator’s Circle. Launched in September, this group of dedicated park lovers has committed to give $1,000 each year for five years to support the mission and vision of the Conservancy. These unrestricted donations help us provide expertise, advocacy, and resources to envision, enhance, and sustain Balboa Park for all visitors. Gifts of any size help us fulfill our mission, and we thank everyone who has supported us this year.

Coming Next Year
In order to execute the many projects and initiatives we have planned, we must invest in our infrastructure. To that end, we are pleased to announce the appointment of Jacqueline Higgins, ASLA, as our new Director of Planning, Design and Programs. Through a grant from the Parker Foundation, we are able to hire Jackie, who brings a tremendous background in landscape restoration and project management to our team. One of her top priorities will be working with Tree San Diego to complete a comprehensive Tree Inventory—building a database and identifying every tree location, species, and condition throughout the park. She will also work with Vonn Marie May, Southern California’s most noted cultural landscape historian, to continue work on the Cultural Landscape Report, a critical preservation management tool. We look forward to more community workshops, park activation opportunities, and progress on the Botanical Building as well.

Thank you so much for your support of the Balboa Park Conservancy. Please visit us soon, and consider joining our growing corps of volunteers. But most of all, visit your park in the coming year and enjoy all that this amazing urban park has to offer: Explore a museum, go for a swim, a hike, or a run; play tennis, have a picnic, listen to jazz, catch a play, or just enjoy the shade of our heritage trees.

There is truly something for everyone!

See you in the park,


Tomás Herrera-Mishler
CEO and President
Balboa Park Conservancy