It is with great sadness that the Balboa Park Conservancy announces the passing last month of one of our remarkable volunteers, Anita Mercado, after a long battle with cancer. Anita began as a volunteer at the Balboa Park Visitors Center Information Desk in 2012. She went on to also volunteer in just about every Conservancy volunteer program: giving custom park tours and regular free Tuesday tours through the Visitors Center, ensuring newly planted trees are thriving as a Tree Steward, greeting and assisting visitors as a Park Ambassador and events volunteer, and helping to rehabilitate the 1935 Cactus Garden. In just eight years, Anita contributed over 1,450 hours of volunteer service. 

Two years ago, Anita left her job at the San Diego History Center to start her own tour guide business, taking visitors on a tour of the park in her own van. She loved sharing her passion for the park and her extensive knowledge of the park’s history any chance she could. (As a schoolteacher for 32 years, Anita had often brought her students to the park.) Longtime Park Ranger Kim Duclo said that he himself enjoyed taking Anita’s tours because he always learned something new. 

She made an impact on so many people in Balboa Park, including Audrey Tamayo, the Conservancy’s first AmeriCorps VIP Fellow volunteer coordinator and current staff member: 

Anita Mercado was an amazing volunteer who never ceased to dedicate her time to Balboa Park. From pulling weeds, to serving during long events, even on her birthday, Anita always greeted visitors with a smile. Anita enriched us with her park knowledge, not only showcasing Balboa Park’s brilliance, but also celebrating indigenous history in the park. Anita’s warmth and grace will truly be missed throughout the park.

Fellow Conservancy volunteer Jean Stein shared:

[Anita] was a woman I admired for her passion and her commitment. . . . She inspired me and so many others. Anita gave so much of herself to Balboa Park and to those of us who knew her.

In addition to her passion for Balboa Park, Anita will be remembered for her kindness and beautiful smile. She will be greatly missed by her two sisters, Toni and Diane, and their families, her sons, and her Balboa Park family.