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Botanic Garden to Celebrate Reopening of Fire-Ravaged Campbell Bridge

The rebuilding of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s historic Campbell Bridge, destroyed in 2009’s Jesusita Fire, has been a community effort, with more than 400 individual donations totaling $81,353.

The rebuilding of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s historic Campbell Bridge, destroyed in 2009’s Jesusita Fire, has been a community effort, with more than 400 individual donations totaling $81,353.  (Santa Barbara Botanic Garden photo)

By Joni Kelly for the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden |

On May 6, 2009, flames from the Jesusita Fire swept through Mission Canyon and burned 70 percent of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s 78 acres. Because of the heroic efforts of emergency personnel, much of the garden’s core was spared — but not all of it. The historic Campbell Bridge was completely destroyed.

Thanks to the generous support of more than 400 individual donations totaling $81,353, the Campbell Bridge is being rebuilt by the community, for the community.

To show heartfelt appreciation, the garden would like to invite community members to celebrate the bridge’s reconstruction with a ribbon-cutting and “Community Crossing” on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb. 14. The festivities for this “valentine” to the community will begin at 10:30 a.m. Refreshments will be served in the Garden Courtyard immediately following.

“We are so pleased to welcome the public to this celebration,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, SBBG’s executive director. “Rebuilding the bridge has truly been a community effort, and we are very grateful for their support. Not only does the rebuilding of this structure provide an easier way for our visitors to explore the west side of our grounds across Mission Creek, it provides our staff with vital access to our living displays to the gardens in that area.”

A Brief History of the Campbell Bridge

The original Campbell Bridge was made possible through a generous gift from Ina Therese Campbell in 1941. An integral piece of the garden’s trail system, the bridge connects the two sides of Mission Creek.

Through the years, thousands of visitors crossed the bridge to experience and enjoy the serenity of the riparian corridor along Mission Creek. Originally designed by Lockwood de Forest Jr., the Campbell Bridge represents the rustic character which has made the garden famous, leading the County of Santa Barbara to designate the bridge and several other features at the Garden as historic landmarks. The architectural design of the new Campbell Bridge pays homage to the original naturalistic elements while using today’s safety standards and materials.

It’s All in the Family: Contractor’s Connection to the Garden Dates Back to the 1950s

Peter Lapidus grew up on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, where he learned an appreciation and respect for the outdoors from his grandfather, Campbell Grant (no relation to Ina Therese Campbell), an avid outdoorsman, teacher and artist. Grant spent many years in the local backcountry, recognized the important work of the garden, and even created early maps for the organization.

Grant was a trustee for the garden for more than 30 years from 1951 until 1986 and was board president from 1966 to 1975. In 1958, the garden published Wildflowers of Santa Barbara, with text by then-Director Katherine Muller, Ph.D., and photographs by Grant.

“One of my grandfather’s favorite quotes was borrowed from a Native American chief: ‘The earth does not belong to Man. Man belongs to the Earth,’” Lapidus said. “He fully embraced this ideology, and I believe the garden is a good reflection of that philosophy.”

In addition to his grandfather, Lapidus has several other familial links to the garden. Encouraged by his friend Grant, fellow botanical enthusiast “Bud” Harrison Allen, grandfather of Hilary Lapidus (Peter’s wife), joined the garden’s board where he served from 1969 until 1987. Allen was an avid plant propagator and always arrived with a gift plant for the host of any function he attended.

Yet another of Lapidus’ garden connections was through his grandmother (Campbell’s wife), Clara Lou Grant, who joined the Garden Guild upon her retirement in 1984. Over the next 20 years, she spent many happy hours as a volunteer with fellow Guild members creating fanciful objects from seed pods and other botanical elements which continue to be sold in the garden’s Gift Shop to this day.

“It was such an honor for our company to have been selected as the contractor for this particular project, not only for the opportunity to build a structure of historic significance like the Campbell Bridge at a community treasure like the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, but also because of the personal connection and long history I have to this special place through my family,” said Peter Lapidus, president of Peter Lapidus Construction. “During construction, the employees really enjoyed being able to work in such a stunning and unique environment. Often we work on projects that are not open to the public. It is a great feeling when you can return to the site of something meaningful you constructed and know it will improve the Garden visitors’ experience for many more generations to come.”

— Joni Kelly is the communications manager for the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.




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