New trees in Kellogg Park funded by La Jolla groups are infested with beetles, will be replaced

The Torrey pines trees funded by the La Jolla Shores Association through a La Jolla Sunrise Rotary grant have died
The Torrey pines trees funded by the La Jolla Shores Association through a La Jolla Sunrise Rotary grant have died and will be replaced.
(Janie Emerson)

The dwindling condition of bushes and beetle-infested trees that were planted in Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores just one year ago has unearthed questions about their care. Though San Diego city officials plan to replace the foliage, some in the area question the level of maintenance the city can provide.

“The lack of oversight and care is appalling,” La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson said of San Diego’s Parks & Recreation Department, which planted the trees and is responsible for their maintenance.

LJSA bought nine trees in 2021 for the city to plant as replacement for trees lost to infestation or other reasons, following a $3,000 grant from the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club for the project that was given in 2019. The tree-planting was initially delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and waiting on city approval for the requisition.

An infestation of Ips beetles has killed the new Torrey pines in Kellogg Park.
(Janie Emerson)

After the project was approved in April 2021, LJSA bought four Torrey pines and what it thought was five Australian tea trees. After the initial purchase, the city would pay for the planting and irrigation costs, Emerson said.

In November 2021, the trees remained unplanted, and the Parks & Recreation Department told LJSA the city was no longer able to fund the irrigation system. LJSA used the leftover Sunrise Rotary grant money and a donation from Shores resident Bill Allen to fund irrigation.

The five Australian tea trees turned out to be New Zealand trees, according to city spokesperson Benny Cartwright, “the wrong plant for that area and would not survive” and were therefore never planted. The city planted two bushes in place of the trees in January 2022.

Cartwright said the Australian tea tree, the correct species, has been sourced and purchased and are at the Balboa Park Nursery awaiting planting “once city staff can fit it into their heavily impacted schedule.”

The four Torrey pines were planted and irrigated in January 2022, but they too suffered a setback. Over the last 11 months, Emerson said LJSA members have noted the Torrey pines and bushes “weren’t doing well.”

In early December, Emerson walked through Kellogg Park and said the trees and bushes “still looked really scrawny” nearly a year after being planted. She sent photos of the trees and bushes in an email to the La Jolla Light and city officials, expressing surprise at the condition of the foliage.

“It is obvious that three of the six [plants] are now dead,” Emerson said. “The other three are in need of life support.”

She told the La Jolla Light the city has “not taken good care of these trees.”

Cartwright said the trees died due to an infestation of the Ips beetle, an insect that tunnels through tree bark, causing damage and death to pine and spruce trees.

“Staff will remove and replant [the trees],” Cartwright said, likely in spring.

But, Emerson said, “This project has been mismanaged from the start.” ◆