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‘Planting the Seed of Knowledge’: Bird Rock Elementary School field gifted new trees

San Diego city staff, Village Garden Club of La Jolla members, and Bird Rock Elementary School members at the new tree
San Diego city staff, Village Garden Club of La Jolla members, and Bird Rock Elementary School community members gathered at the planting of two new trees Aug. 11 on BRES’ joint-use field.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The Bird Rock Elementary School fifth grade class of 2021 and the Village Garden Club of La Jolla finally saw their gift to the school grow to life as two trees were planted Aug. 11 to replace one large ficus felled by a storm earlier this year.

San Diego Parks & Recreation Department employees worked to install new irrigation lines and plant the young Metrosideros excelsa, or New Zealand Christmas trees, in a corner of the BRES joint-use field that is shared with the city and open to the public outside of school hours.

The previous tree, a decades-old large ficus that provided the only shade on the field, was severely damaged during a storm in January and had to be removed.

In February, BRES parent Laura Thompson, whose son Bryce completed fifth grade in June, thought a new tree to replace the fallen one would make a good class gift from the departing fifth graders. It is a school tradition for the outgoing class to leave a “gift” for future students on the campus.

She called Devonna Hall, co-chair of the VGCLJ’s tree planting committee, which plants trees around San Diego County paid for by donations to remember or honor others.

Hall said when Thompson showed her photos of the downed ficus and asked for help, the VGCLJ said “we’d love to.”

The project was presented in March to La Jolla Parks & Beaches, which approved the planting of the new trees.

City staff worked to plant two young New Zealand Christmas trees, along with new irrigation lines, at Bird Rock Elementary
City staff worked to plant two young New Zealand Christmas trees, along with new irrigation lines, at Bird Rock Elementary School to replace a large ficus that had to be removed earlier this year.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The process involved obtaining approvals from the city and selecting one of the four varieties of trees approved by the San Diego Unified School District “for use in such a location [and] compatible with native species and providing habitat for wildlife,” Thompson said.

The New Zealand Christmas trees were also selected for their availability from local nurseries, she said, obtained from Everde Growers in San Diego.

The trees cost $250, with the BRES fifth grade class and VGCLJ splitting the cost, Thompson said. The fifth graders took on a fundraising effort specific to the project, receiving donations from class families and community members. San Diego Parks & Recreation staff will be responsible for maintaining the trees, department area manager Rosalia Castruita said.

Hall and Thompson also worked with the city to “solve the problem of irrigation,” Hall said. “There’s irrigation here, but you need to put irrigation in the actual tree.”

The irrigation supplies were donated by Hall’s husband, Richard Restuccia of Jain Irrigation.

“I was really happy to hear that they were setting up a separate irrigation zone for the trees,” Restuccia said, as using the same system to water the trees and turf means “you would have to really overwater the turf or underwater the trees because they have two different water requirements.”

Noting that “more trees are better,” city parks arborist Erich Kast said two trees would be better suited to replace the shade canopy than one tree, but that it will take about 10 years before the trees mature enough to provide the same amount of shade area as the previous tree.

BRES class of 2021 student Lydia McDonald places a ribbon on one of the newly planted trees.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

As the trees were installed, Thompson had the few people who gathered to watch the planting write messages on ribbons to hang on the new trees in what she called a “reverse ribbon cutting.”

Although the event wasn’t marked with a ribbon cutting, a more formal ceremony might happen in the coming weeks.

Lydia McDonald, who promoted from BRES’s fifth grade in June, said she hopes “the trees grow fast because the other one was pretty nice, with the shade.”

Bryce said he enjoyed climbing the removed tree, and recounted stories of games played around and in the tree.

Thompson said she commissioned a plaque on 24-inch flagstone slab to be laid near the trees in the next week.

The plaque will read: “Planting the Seed of Knowledge in partnership with the BRE 5th grade class of 2021 and The Village Garden Club of La Jolla. Dedicated to the Bird Rock community to enjoy for years to come.”

“I really am so happy about this coming to fruition,” Hall said. “We hope that many children will enjoy the shade from these trees.” ◆