After months of planning, partnering, and hard work, the Alcazar Garden has been restored to its 1935 glory for the benefit of millions of annual visitors to Balboa Park. The Balboa Park Conservancy is grateful to our many funders, park and city partners, and vendors (recognized below) who made completion of this significant project possible during these challenging times. The Alcazar Garden restoration not only preserves for generations an iconic historic garden in San Diego’s cultural heart, it demonstrates what is possible when so many of us come together to lend our talents and treasure for our beloved park and its essential community and environmental resources.
It Started with a Plan
With the help of a $2,500 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation – Favrot Fund, the Balboa Park Conservancy engaged the services of Vicki Estrada, principal of Estrada Land Planning, to conduct a full review and create a plan for the restoration of the Alcazar Garden. Estrada Land Planning had played an integral role in preparing the Balboa Park Master Plan, adopted by the San Diego City Council in 1989, which included plans for the Alcazar Garden. Vicki Estrada produced a comprehensive report on the current conditions of the Alcazar Garden as well as recommendations, planting plans, and project cost estimates for the proposed repair and restoration work.
The Estrada plan advanced the Conservancy’s efforts to conduct additional fundraising toward the completion of recommended work as well as engage the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department in supporting the restoration efforts. Parks and Recreation undertook one of the first priority improvements recommended in the Estrada plan: repairing and replacing as needed the plumbing that feeds water to the garden’s central fountains. Thanks to Parks and Recreation, the fountains were turned back on in mid-2019 for the first time in many years, immediately enhancing the visitor impression and experience of the 100-year-old garden.
Parks and Recreation’s contribution to restore the fountains came as an in-kind match to a generous private donation of $25,000 by longtime Conservancy Trustee Conny Jamison. The Conservancy later received a donation of $30,000 from Susan and Larry Favrot via the Favrot Fund toward the cost of restoring the Alcazar Garden. A successful grant application to the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club resulted in an award of $8,520 toward repair and enhancements of the Alcazar Garden’s lighting, as recommended in the Estrada report.
With more than $63,000 in funding in place and additional support from project partners, the Balboa Park Conservancy moved forward in spring 2020 with scheduling contractors who executed the planned restoration work. Led by the Conservancy’s Director of Planning, Design and Programs, Jackie Higgins, with the support of Facility Engineer Morgan Fox and Project Coordinator Audrey Tamayo, shade trees around the garden were neatly trimmed, root-damaged pavement was repaired, new concrete was poured around the fountains, replacement of broken fountain tiles was completed, new and improved lighting was installed, and the archways and iconic pergola received transformative coats of paint.
In addition to the essential support from funders, the city, and Conservancy staff, the Alcazar Garden restoration project could not have been completed without the substantial contributions of our many partners and vendors who came through in the midst of a global health emergency.
Jim Hughes of Friends of Balboa Park and San Diego Rotary Club 33 provided $5,500 in support to paint the Alcazar Garden’s archways and pergola. We are also grateful to Balboa Park’s Committee of 100, which generously supplied from their own collection the historic tiles needed to replace the damaged tiles on the Alcazar Garden’s water features.
The garden restoration also benefited from the generous in-kind support of our contractors and vendors. FX Luminaire delivered $50,000 worth of state-of-the-art pathway lighting at half the regular price, greatly increasing security and safety while adding to the garden’s nighttime aesthetic beauty. Travis Nixon of Absolutely Electric, a regular Conservancy partner, graciously contributed over $5,000 in labor for the lighting installation.
We are also grateful to the in-kind contribution from Kirk Paving and expertise of Paul Hart, who replaced 15 square feet of broken pavement, and West Coast Arborists for their impressive trimming of the massive ficus tree bordering the garden’s south side.
Our Work Continues
In the coming months, we look forward to working with gardeners from Parks and Recreation to develop fresh and colorful plant palettes for the garden’s beds based on historic plantings, as recommended in the Estrada report. We will also be expanding our new Garden Stewards initiative to provide maintenance support for the garden as well as to engage and educate its many visitors.
The Alcazar Garden is a cherished San Diego landmark—this beautiful historic setting has served as a backdrop for significant life experiences and memories for more than a century. In the coming year, we will work on establishing a new endowment fund to help ensure continued enjoyment of the Alcazar Garden by millions of park visitors for generations to come.