Building Young Tree Stewards in Balboa Park - San Diego, CA

by Tree San Diego
Activity Type: Stewardship
Region: Pacific West

Engage youth from underserved, park-poor neighborhoods in becoming tree stewards in the region’s most beloved urban green space, Balboa Park

$0 Raised out of $5,000
0 Funders
20 Days Remaining

Please describe your project in more detail.


The San Diego region’s urban tree canopy is decimated, estimated to be at only 4 to 7%. It should be at least 25% and consist of the right trees in the right places to properly protect human and environmental health. To build and maintain a viable tree canopy, the community needs to educate the next generation of young people to become “tree stewards.” Instilled with the knowledge of how to plant trees and their importance, young stewards will be inspired and motivated to care for trees in their own neighborhoods and properties for the rest of their lives. Typically tree steward educational programs are provided through local urban forestry nonprofit organizations, and Tree San Diego is our region’s primary nonprofit dedicated to helping improve our tree canopy.

Educating tree stewards requires hands-on training where trees are both available to learn from and new trees are needed. Balboa Park, with its 16,000 trees, is an ideal place for such an experience. While the Park is blessed with many trees of diverse species, its tree canopy faces the same challenges as all trees in our region—age, drought, disease.

Program Goals

The Balboa Park Youth Tree Steward program will bring fifth-grade students from Burbank Elementary School, a school in a park-poor area of the City of San Diego, to Balboa Park to help enhance and protect the Park’s iconic landscape. The program’s goal in bringing these students to such a majestic urban park is to develop them into capable and inspired tree stewards who will care for our urban tree canopy as they learn valuable life and work skills. A partner organization, The Balboa Park Conservancy, will arrange for tree planting and maintenance opportunities for these children through the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department, which relies on the Conservancy and volunteer community groups to help them maintain and improve the Park’s urban forest. Another partner organization, One San Diego, will arrange the program with the target school.


Burbank Elementary School faces serious challenges that mirror the economic and social challenges of its low-income neighborhood. With few outside resources, opportunities for their students are few and far between. The school itself was named after the famous horticulturist Luther Burbank, who developed 800 strains of plant species during his prolific career, thus providing unique opportunities for school curriculum tie-ins to the tree steward program. A collaborative program that involves supplemental education and one or more fieldtrips to Balboa Park would provide a number of benefits not only to the students but to their community for years to come.

Contributions to this project would help fund

1.     Much-welcome fieldtrips to Balboa Park for all fifth-graders, including transportation and food. The fieldtrip/tree planting sessions will take place in the winter/spring semester of 2017 and completed no later than May. It may be possible to connect one of the sessions to National Arbor Day.

2.     A custom curriculum and educational materials designed and delivered by Tree San Diego covering tree biology and the many benefits of trees for both humans and the environment, such as the important roles they play in breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen and stopping storm water runoff, thereby preventing erosion and pollution from running into the bay and ocean.

3.     Hands-on training by Tree San Diego in tree planting and basic maintenance.

How many kids (grades K-8) will be directly engaged in this project?


What is the name or school district associated with the project?

San Diego Unified School District