Bird Rock fifth-graders seeking to replace felled tree get support from La Jolla Parks & Beaches

This ficus tree on the Bird Rock Elementary joint-use field was damaged during a storm this year and was later removed.
This ficus tree on the Bird Rock Elementary School joint-use field was severely damaged during a storm earlier this year and was later removed.

Despite not being on campus for their fifth-grade year and not getting to relax in the shade of Bird Rock Elementary School’s huge ficus tree during recess, some BRE students want to continue a tradition of leaving a gift to the school before they go on to middle school, and they’re working to plant a new tree on the playground.

The school’s signature tree on the grassy field, a joint-use park that is open to the public during certain hours when school is not in session, was severely damaged during a storm earlier this year and had to be removed. So the fifth-grade class is embarking on a project to replace it and got the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board’s approval during its March 22 meeting.

“This enormous ficus tree, which has been there for many years and was loved by the community and the children of the school, was damaged in the storms and split in half,” said BRE parent Laura Thompson. “It was too damaged to continue growing, so the city cut it down in the interest of safety. The tree is now gone, so now there is no shade for the Bird Rock Elementary park and we are looking to replace it.”

It is a school tradition for the fifth-grade class leave a gift “for future students,” so this project “seemed like a perfect fit,” Thompson said.

The fallen ficus tree on the Bird Rock Elementary School joint-use field had to be removed.
The fallen ficus tree on the Bird Rock Elementary School joint-use field had to be removed, but it will be replaced by the fifth-grade class and the Village Garden Club of La Jolla.

The students will work with the Village Garden Club of La Jolla’s tree planting program, the San Diego Parks & Recreation Department and the San Diego Unified School District, which has a list of trees approved for campus use.

Village Garden Club President Devonna Hall said the club is excited to donate a “good, solid, fast-growing tree.”

The hope is to have the tree planted in May before the fifth-grade class departs.

Parks & Beaches trustee and Bird Rock resident Barbara Dunbar moved that LJP&B support the project, and it was approved unanimously.

“The prior tree was just so huge and glorious; it was the only shade on the entire field, so parents would gather underneath while watching their kids play on the nearby play structure or having soccer practice on the field,” Thompson said after the meeting. “There were a few benches and picnic tables beneath as well on which to have a rest or snack. When the neighborhood dogs play at the park, they would eventually crash in the leaves underneath. ... And thanks to the picnic tables, schoolkids would often be seen climbing up into the trees’ huge branches. According to my son, a frequent climber on it, the tree could easily have fit 15 kids climbing at once.

“No matter how the community took advantage of the tree, it was just such a statement towering over and providing shade, activity, joy and habitat to so many.”

Other LJP&B news

New location for reservoir? A working group tasked with reviewing the draft environmental impact report for the planned La Jolla View Reservoir replacement project is focusing on proposing a new location for the reservoir system.

To provide La Jollans who are concerned with the La Jolla View Reservoir replacement project more time to review its environmental documents, the city of San Diego has further extended the public comment period following the creation of a community working group focused on the project.

The project would replace the 720,000-gallon La Jolla View Reservoir, an above-ground water storage tank, and the 990,000-gallon, partially above ground Exchange Place Reservoir with one new 3.1-million-gallon underground reservoir in La Jolla Heights Natural Park above the La Jolla Country Club area. The existing reservoirs and the Exchange Place Pump Station would be demolished and their sites would be returned to historical contours with native vegetation.

With a list of concerns over traffic, park access, preservation of natural resources and impact on neighbors during construction and whether they would be mitigated, working group member Patrick Ahern said the focus is on “moving it to a different location other than La Jolla Heights Natural Park. We are talking to other engineers and bringing in some ideas.”

He said the group proposed five locations and the city of San Diego is “looking at” three of them. He did not disclose the locations.

City spokesman Scott Robinson told the La Jolla Light that the city “is considering all its options and working with the community.”

Restrooms and bike racks: LJP&B approved sending two letters to the city, one supporting a waiver of the summer construction moratorium for the Scripps Park Pavilion project and the other suggesting the city install bike racks in The Village like those at the Children’s Pool.

The waiver of the summer construction moratorium from Memorial Day to Labor Day would allow crews to work through the usually tourist-heavy summer to complete the new restroom facility being built in Scripps Park. Construction was delayed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year but has resumed, and city representatives have said work that would typically be done consecutively will run concurrently.

The Children’s Pool bike racks, which are silver rings, were installed at the completion of the Children’s Pool Plaza project, and board members recommend that similar ones be installed around Girard Avenue at Silverado Street.

A motion to send both letters passed unanimously.

Bylaws review: The first phase of revising the LJP&B board’s bylaws, which was intended to clean up inconsistent language, was approved.

A working group was formed earlier this year to suggest bylaws updates and amendments, and a special meeting was held March 1 to collect public feedback. The revised draft was sent to members and approved unanimously at the March 22 board meeting.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches members and others attend the March 22 board meeting online.

The group will reconvene to work on Phase 2 in six months. That phase will address whether to impose term limits on board members.

A third phase will be launched if and when the city of San Diego decides that LJP&B could become a recognized advisory group.

LJP&B President Claudia Baranowski thanked the working group for the “many hours, conversations, research that was done to get to this point. It’s a big accomplishment.”

Next meeting: La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, April 26, online. Learn more at ◆