History of Palomar College Arboretum
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History of the Palomar College Arboretum

by Edna Pulver

I n the earliest years of the College, very little changed in the area which is now the site of the Palomar College Arboretum. In those early days, a parking lot appeared to be the likely future for this undeveloped area. Bob Kelly, the gardener under supervisor Ted Jennings of Fallbrook, planted a few trees and shrubs, along with the never-ending task of controlling weeds and clean up. [This was the beginning of the Palomar College Arboretum--wpa]

The formal idea to start an official arboretum on the College grounds originated with student Brian Hawthorne. He had been stationed with the U.S. Coast Guard in New London, Connecticut and frequently visited a beautiful arboretum at a university near the base. This lovely area was a popular site for the students and local community. Hawthorne did considerable research on this subject for costs and a chosen site before presenting it to the Palomar College Board of Governors. He generated much in the way of enthusiasm among associated student government members. When presented to the Board of Governors in 1973, it was approved with almost three acres set aside on the northeast section of the campus. At the current date the Arboretum has grown to approximately five acres. With Governing Board approval, study and work began on an irrigation system, excavation and erosion control plan.

After Hawthorne graduated in June, 1973 the project was headed by newly elected Jerry Braeckert, President of the Associated Student Government (ASG) and Glae Thien, head of the newly created Arboretum Development Board. This momentum of planning, discussion and organizing brought in new members, including Gene Jackson (Dean of Student Affairs), Wayne Armstrong (Instructor in the Life Sciences Department), Bob Kelly, (Gardener/Horticulturist), Dr. John Schettler (Superintendent of Business), and a number of students, particularly Ben Gill and Tom Stout. To sing the praise of a whole host of additional people, especially through Bob Kelly's contacts: The Huntington Botanical Garden, Los Angeles County Arboretum, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Quail Botanical Garden Foundation and Descanso Gardens. A number of local nurseries also donated plants, including Nickerson's Nursery, Tropic World, Moenig's Nursery, Pacific Trees in Chula Vista, La Costa Nursery and Sarver's Nursery in San Marcos. As the years went by, there were more donations to the Arboretum. Most of the funding for trees came from the ASG, Palomar College Development Foundation, Patrons of Palomar, and interested private citizen groups. Another tremendous boost came from instructor Ivan D. Puett in drawing up a topographic map. Surveying Instructor James Chesney also added a helping hand with his expertise.

To quote Wayne Armstrong, Life Sciences Instructor: "A number of classes in the Life Sciences Department conduct laboratory field studies in the Arboretum and adjacent coastal sage scrub, including Biology, Botany, Zoology, Invertebrate Zoology, and Natural History. The field experience and sampling techniques gained from these studies are invaluable teaching aids, particularly for Life Science transfer students."

Monies raised by the Patrons, in particular, provided a program of student labor and learning while continuing their education at the College.

The northwesterly area of the Arboretum was regraded and terraced, making an easier approach for the handicapped to the level of the palm grove, bamboo forest, pergola and picnic tables. This entrance contained the hand-carved redwood arboretum sign made by Ben Gill and Dana Ward as a class project in 1975. After graduation, Ben Gill was in the business of growing proteas. He was the source of all the original proteas planted in the Arboretum. He spent a lot of time establishing a protea test garden and provided books on proteas for the Library from the proceeds from his flower sales.

The hilltop summit of the Arboretum was chosen by the Patrons for the establishment of a memorial to Dr. and Mrs. Omar Scheidt, in memory of their oldest son James. It included a small pond and native plants obtained from the Theodore Paine Nursery in Sunland, California.

During the early years of the Arboretum, Vice President Dr. Theodore Kilman and English Instructor Angelo Carli were chairpersons of the Campus Beautification Committee. There were regular meetings with the exchange of ideas and new endeavors. Bob Kelly became the primary horticulturist and liaison with other arboretums and long-established Botanical Gardens. Students who worked with Bob received a wealth of information while continuing their education at Palomar College. Some of Bob's students transferred to UC Davis and Cal Poly Pomona. Phil Morgan, Custodial Supervisor and member of the Palm Society, contributed his valuable expertise to the growth and care of the Palm Terrace. Campus gardener Pat Burchett did an outstanding job of maintaining the Arboretum and removing weeds and debris.

Patrons Maurice and Grace Burns, staunch supporters of the Arboretum, gave a southern magnolia tree in memory of Maurice's sister Alyce Sacin. Another frequent visitor was Earl Leach, staff member of the College who donated a kumquat tree as a tribute to his mother. A Boy Scout bench at "look-out point" commemorates Euell Bently, former Custodial Supervisor of eleven years. It was donated by his wife Mickey. Euell was always helpful in any issue that concerned the growth and improvement of the campus.

Some of the rock formations show evidence of Native American inhabitants. Dr. Dennis O'Neil of the Behavioral Science Department found a number of Indian artifacts, including grinding stones (metates and bed rock mortars). His archaeology students have conducted some interesting field studies in the Arboretum and adjacent coastal sage scrub.

Througout the early years of the Arboretum history there have been plans for a meandering stream and waterfall. There is a strong need for some form of water display in a botanical garden of this size. This project was started a few years ago with the excavation of land and clearing of brush.

-----Edna Pulver, Campus Beautification Committee (circa 1980-1990)

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