Sunday, May 29 , 2016, 4:26 pm | Overcast 63º

Bridge Dedication a Milestone in Botanic Garden Rebuild

Renewal after the 2009 Jesusita Fire is evident throughout the 78-acre Santa Barbara grounds

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

Betsy Collins recalls setting foot in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden just days after the Jesusita Fire swept through the foothills above Santa Barbara in May 2009.

The wooded creekbed of Mission Creek that cut through the garden, once green and thriving, “looked like a moonscape,” said Collins, who is director of horticulture for the garden and has worked there for 23 years.

Every leaf had fallen off the trees where the fire had rushed through, leaving a thick layer of gray ash in its wake.

Seventy percent of the garden’s 78 acres were affected by the fire, although the core of the garden was saved because of the hard work of local firefighters.

Seeing that destruction “was a very emotional experience,” Collins said, and even days after, the staff worked to put out spot fires still smoldering on the grounds of the garden at 1212 Mission Canyon Road.

But within two weeks, Collins began seeing green shoots reaching upward.

“There is an aspect of renewal,” she said of the wildfire.

That renewal is evident these days throughout the garden, where several hundred people gathered Thursday to christen a newly built bridge that replaces one destroyed in the fire.

The original Campbell Bridge was built in 1941 and connected the garden’s trail system by bridging Mission Creek. The bridge was lost to the fire, but thanks to more than 400 individual donations, $81,000 was raised for its replacement.

Supporters got a chance to walk over the bridge and take in the beauty of the creekbed, which is green and flourishing once again.

A California poppy blooms along a trial at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
A California poppy blooms at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Peter Lapidus, project manager for the bridge rebuild, said “it’s not often we get to work in a place like this where we can bring our families back to enjoy it.”

He said many of the contractors and subcontractors on the project had never been to the botanic garden at all, and were excited to share it with their families.

Just moments later, the garden’s executive director, Steve Windhager, cut the ribbon spanning the bridge with a pair of gold-plated landscape shears.

Windhager said the garden is in the middle of capital campaign that will fund the rebuilding of two structures destroyed in the Jesusita Fire, including an old house that was used to hold tools and as a horticultural facility.

A conservation center is in the works to be built in that location now.

This week the garden’s cultural landscape plan was approved by the Santa Barbara County Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission, and in some ways, the fire presented the opportunity for the garden to make changes that weren’t possible before.

For example, the fire destroyed many of the large trees on the garden’s east side, but the absence of those trees has restored historic views, which look out majestically on the Pacific Ocean.

Click here to learn more about the garden’s rebuilding efforts or contribute to its capital campaign.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.