Correction: Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Nancy Johnson’s first quote had improper formatting in the print edition. It has been corrected here. The Nexus regrets this error.
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden still has a long road ahead to recover from the devastation wrought by last year’s Jesusita Fire.
Nine structures were lost in the blaze that scorched 60 of the 78 acres of the garden and left huge amounts of dead flora in its wake. The aging facilities required upgrades prior to the fire and, according to Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Nancy Johnson, the need is now greater than ever.
“Losing those plants was a huge blow to the Garden,” Johnson said. “It’s just not a way to run a garden.”
Johnson said that in addition to losing many plants, the fire destroyed all the tools and vehicles the gardeners use to maintain the Garden. Without those, Johnson said, it makes maintaining the remaining plants quite difficult.
Since the fire, supporters of the Botanical Garden raised $150,000 in donations to rebuild the infrastructure necessary for daily operations. Much of the garden has been re-opened, including the Porter Path and an environmental sculpture in memory of the Jesusita Fire named “The Labyrinth.”
Most recently, a petition has passed around campus and outside Trader Joe’s in Goleta in support of the garden and its Vital Mission Plan, which was developed in 2005 to upgrade the deteriorating infrastructure.
The plan involves constructing a number of new buildings and improving disabled access to the gardens, as well as offering a reassurance that 99 percent of the garden will remain an open space.
With the plan about to reach the final approval phase at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, Johnson said that community support is essential.
“We are asking for people’s support,” Johnson said. “We are in dire need now. Our gardeners have no place to work. They have no place to hang their hats.”
Michael Paccassi, a fourth-year environmental studies major, said the Botanical Garden is a useful tool for those interested in flora. He was scheduled to visit the garden on a school trip at the time of the fire.
“It burned down during the quarter I was going to go on a field trip there,” Paccassi said. “It’s important for people to see the different types of flora, and it provides it all in one little neat package.”
Additionally, Zoe Zilz, a first-year biology major, said she has fond memories of visiting the garden as a child.
“I used to go there when I was little,” Zilz said. “It’s a really good educational tool.”
According to Johnson, the Botanical Garden is looking forward to getting back on track and the next two years will entail a huge deal of work in addition to great benefits.
“Our scientists, educators and horticulture staff will have space to do their work,” Johnson said. “We will be planting and planting and planting. It’s going to be more beautiful than ever.”