Century-old redwood grove in Balboa Park is dying - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Century-old redwood grove in Balboa Park is dying

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A 100-year-old grove of redwood trees in Balboa Park is on the verge of dying and nothing can be done to save the majestic sequoias, according to City of San Diego tree experts.

“These trees have been around for 80 to 100 years and they were planted when we had water and the climate wasn't what it is today,“ said Urban Forestry Project Manager Jeremy Barrick with the San Diego Planning Department.

The redwood grove is north of Balboa Park’s historic Cabrillo Bridge. The trees are not native to San Diego.

“It’s basically a high maintenance landscape,” said Barrick.

“We’re in an unprecedented drought; over 10 years of drought. We are irrigating minimally with the infrastructure that's here and within the watering restrictions,” Barrick explained.

Redwoods are native to Northern California where low ground cover and coastal mist keep the trees moist.

In 2006, the city cleared brush underneath the grove to make trails more accessible, which may have contributed to the problem. The underbrush helped keep the soil moist.

“They would almost have to be submerged in water and have 24-hour irrigation to replicate that fog cycle coming in off the water and condensation on the leaves,” said Barrick.

San Diego botanist Kate Sessions planted the redwood grove more than a century ago as part of a deal she made with the city to plant 100 trees per year on public land, according to the Friends of Balboa Park.

“The redwoods were planted probably for the 1915 exposition and they obviously did very well for the last 100 years plus,” said Pat Caughey, the group’s chairman.

“At this point, the trees are too far along in their decline. I don't think they'll ever come back,” said Caughey.

“To lose these trees, it's very sad, but at the same time we need to move on and continue to remind people we have to be respectful of our climate,” Caughey said.

The reality is the redwood grove will probably be dead in 15 to 20 years.

In the meantime, the city is repopulating the area with Torrey Pines that are much more drought tolerant in our dry climate.

The redwood grove surrounds an area of Balboa Park known as Redwood Circle that the city rents to the public as a wedding venue. Along the bottom of the grove is a hiking path called Bride Trail.

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