The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is using a $6.8 million insurance settlement to rebuild facilities damaged in last May’s Jesusita Fire.
The majority of the money received from Chubb Insurance will be used to rebuild structures destroyed in the fire, such as Campbell Bridge and director’s residence, and to replace expensive gardening equipment, all of which was lost to the blaze. The Botanic Garden staff predicts that the structures will be completed by the end of the year, although unpredictable weather conditions may draw out the process.
According to Nancy Johnson, an employee at the Botanic Garden, the insurance negotiation was completed a few weeks ago, and the check was received shortly after.
“We’re using the money to restore the structural garden and the ground,” Johnson said. “The garden did suffer quite a bit of loss: about two-thirds of the garden. A really big hit was to have lost every single tool that we had, and the vehicles as well.”
After the Jesusita Fire, which destroyed more than 75 homes and burned nearly 9,000 acres in the hills above Santa Barbara, gardeners had to cut down approximately 40 acres of burnt trees. Johnson and the staff have planted an assortment of flora in their wake.
“We planted lots and lots and lots of wildflowers,” Johnson said. “These hills that were once covered in beautiful trees will now be covered in wildflowers. We see this as a gift of renewal, letting the community know that we did burn but we are surviving. Last year was a remarkable year for us, but we have made many steps. We are excited for renewing the garden and having the public rejoice.”
The Botanic Garden has also taken measures to ensure protection if another fire strikes the Santa Barbara area. According to Johnson, builders plan to establish an extensive protection program to rebuild and renovate existing buildings. Sprinklers will be installed in every building and more fire hydrants will be placed around the garden’s premises.
“There are a number of measures in the fire protection plan,” Johnson said. “It’s so extensive that the fire department said that it will make the whole canyon safer.”
Johnson said that Botanic Garden employees are extremely grateful for the monetary support they received from Chubb Insurance and that she hopes the community will volunteer time during the rebuilding process.
“We encourage the students to come visit here and have a nice reprieve from studying,” Johnson said. “We want the community to know that we are open and that we really appreciate their support.”