By Erik Anderson

Bradley Michael Brown knelt over a hole that is home to a newly planted tree in Balboa Park.

“And it looks like we’re about there,” Brown said as he threw another handful of dirt around the trunk. He turned to a volunteer and encouraged him to help with the finishing touches.

“One more scoop and you’re good. Now go ahead and step on it a little bit and tamp it down,” Brown said.

Brown and a handful of volunteers planted a Bauhinea tree on the western edge of the park near Quince Street.

“It’s a Hong Kong Orchid … and so if it grows right in the next five or 10 years, it’s going to be a big flowering tree,” Brown said.

Dozens of trees found new homes in the park during a recent Arbor Day celebration. The event marked the completion of an effort funded by CALFIRE that put 500 new trees in the ground in San Diego’s largest urban park.

Brown said trees are one of the things that make the park unique.

“It’s such a different feeling than being out in the middle of a concrete or asphalt parking lot and then being under a grove of ficus trees,” Brown said. “Everyone can imagine that, right? Who wants to be out in a hot parking lot? I mean, that’s what the trees help.”

But in spite of the newly planted trees, the park’s forest still faces challenges that were uncovered by the nonprofit Balboa Park Conservancy, which has been taking stock of the park’s trees. Their efforts include understanding the health of the trees from a two-decade-old survey that was recorded with pencil and paper.

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