Sculptures beautify Paradise Creek Gathering Place.

On the south side of National City’s Kimball Park, near 16th Street, a footbridge crosses Paradise Creek. Look up near the bridge and you’ll spy beautiful small sculptures mounted atop high posts.

These shining metal sculptures at the Paradise Creek Gathering Place were created by San Diego artist Vicki Leon, in collaboration with high school students at A Reason To Survive (ARTS), an organization in National City that uplifts local youth using the power of creativity.

The Paradise Creek Gathering Place sculptures together are titled Migratory Flight. They resemble silvery birds taking wing. Solar-powered lights illuminate bits of colored glass in clear tubes beneath each sculpture.

The environmental sculptures, symbolizing wildlife that depends on Paradise Creek, were installed in 2018. Many in the community came out to help build and beautify the Paradise Creek Gathering Place, including the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center’s Kitchenistas and students from San Diego City College and San Diego State University. You can read more about the project here and here.

Lead artist Vicki Leon has also helped to beautify her own City Heights Azalea Park neighborhood. You can see photos of more amazing public artwork that I took during a special visit to Azalea Park here and here and here.

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Bright, colorful butterflies fill National City parks!

Giant butterflies take flight in the blue sky above three National City parks!

Should you visit Butterfly Park, Kimball Park or Las Palmas Park, you’re certain to spot many large butterfly wings! The colorful sculptures were created in 2015 by families throughout the National City community.

Every butterfly is composed of two pieces of cut aluminum, and the separate sides of each butterfly are uniquely decorated with different colors of reflective vinyl tape. I’ve been told that car headlights shining on the butterflies at night reveal bright bursts of life!

The project, led by local artist Roberto Salas, is called Butterfly Path. Its creation was made possible through a commission from the San Diego Museum of Art’s “Open Spaces” program, supported by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

The first time I spotted some of these butterflies–last year at Kimball Park–I didn’t know a thing about them. Comments made by readers provided great information. Revisit that old blog post here.

Since then I’ve seen more of the beautiful sculptures, and have learned more about them, particularly during an amazing tour of Butterfly Park, which you can read about by clicking here.

These artistic butterflies symbolize an ongoing metamorphosis in National City. The transformation is to an even more proud, healthy and environmentally friendly community that shines with greater and greater beauty.

Here are just some of the butterflies you might encounter, in no particular order…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A beautiful transformation in National City!

A beautiful transformation began in National City in 2013. Hundreds of community members came together to make a positive, permanent change. Butterfly Park, a blighted strip of land near the corner of 20th Street and Palm Avenue, became more like its namesake!

I first learned about this wonderful transformation on Sunday, during an incredible tour provided by Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center’s super nice Cooking for Salud Coordinator, Patty Corona.

We walked through the park and were greeted by colorful butterflies everywhere we turned!

I learned how, during the course of several days, families from throughout the neighborhood, school students, the Kitchenistas of Olivewood Gardens, and even the mayor of the time worked in the park installing butterfly beauty: mosaics on benches, a table and a trashcan, beautiful metalwork on posts, and an outdoor stage shaped like a butterfly wing! Vegetation that attracts butterflies was planted, too!

According to this article, “The project was led by Pomegranate CenterOlivewood Gardens and Learning Center…pitched the idea for a community gathering space in November 2012.

(The Pomegranate Center was also instrumental in creating the Manzanita Gathering Place in City Heights. See those photos here.)

As we walked through the park, I learned the wavy metal sculptures on posts were created by Sweetwater High School welding students, and the log benches were the work of former National City Mayor Ron Morrison.

In 2015 the very colorful aluminum butterfly sculptures you see in my photos were decorated by community members using reflective vinyl, under the leadership of local artist Roberto Salas. This “Butterfly Path” can also be found in two other National City Parks: Kimball Park and Las Palmas Park.

I’ll be posting more photos of them in an upcoming blog post!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A tour of Olivewood Gardens in National City.

Yesterday I enjoyed an awesome tour of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in National City.

As you will see in my photographs, Olivewood Gardens is a very special place.

It’s a green paradise in the middle of an urban setting, where students, families and neighbors learn about organic gardening and good nutrition. Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center is the destination of school field trips, where city kids can experience the virtues of a vegetable garden, being active outdoors, and environmental stewardship. There are also classes where parents learn how to prepare healthy meals, and how to become leaders in their community.

Graduates of Olivewood’s Cooking for Salud program are called Kitchenistas. They are integral participants in this non-profit organization’s educational programs. The Kitchenistas, through a Community Engagement Program, proudly work to improve the well-being of families throughout National City!

Patty Corona, the Cooking for Salud Coordinator, showed me all around Olivewood Gardens. We toured most of the grounds and checked out several demonstration gardening areas. We then walked through Olivewood’s historic Victorian house and its kitchen, which serve as the hub for a variety of fun events and educational activities.

In 2006, the beautiful 1896 Queen Anne style house and surrounding gardens were generously donated by the Walton family to the International Community Foundation “with the goal of leveraging the property to engage, grow, and promote healthy communities and dialogue through civic engagement and philanthropy in the San Diego-Baja California border region.” Through their own personal experiences, the Waltons understood the importance of eating healthy foods.

Learn more about the history of ICF and Olivewood Gardens, and the positive programs that are offered to the community, by visiting their website here.

Please enjoy these photographs from my tour! And read the photo captions for much more information.

I was excited to discover this small paradise in San Diego’s South Bay area, where gardens flourish, the sun shines, and nature’s beauty and healthy people thrive!

A view of Olivewood Garden’s beautiful Victorian house from N Avenue in National City.
One of many works of art gracing Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.
Various signs near the the late 19th century house provide visitors with information.
Oliver H. Noyes, National City postmaster (and retired senator from New Hampshire), built this Victorian house for his family in 1896. They sold it in 1947 to the Newlan family, who sold it to John and Christy Walton in 1985…
In July 2006, Christy Walton donated her former home and garden to the International Community Foundation to increase cross-border dialogue and philanthropy…
An area of the garden north of the house where school students gather, experience and learn.
Beds with growing vegetables, where young hands can work in the earth.
Look at all the healthy veges growing in this organic garden!
When I was young, my family had a large vegetable garden. Simply standing here brought back happy memories.
More surprising artwork in the garden. A stunning mosaic depicts colorful flowers.
Here’s a small succulent garden, demonstrating native plants.
Mural on a garden shed is bright with fruits and vegetables. By artist Brianna Perkins.
Don’t hog the water. Think several generations ahead.
Many butterflies like these, decorated differently, can be found in parks around National City. They were created by artist Roberto Salas, the Kitchenistas, and families from around the community.
As we walked along, I spied these sunlit roses.
A closer look at the beautiful sculpture you saw earlier from the street. It’s titled Reina de los Mares (Queen of the Seas), by artist Rocio Sánchez.
Walking through a lush green world.
We’ve arrived at another larger garden south of the house.

A sign describes Lukas’ garden…

When the Walton family lived here, their son Lukas was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three. When his cancer returned…his parents decided to treat him with herbs, juices, and produce they grew themselves. They made changes to their garden, growing all their food organically (with no chemicals) and biodynamically (by building healthy, living soil).

Lukas graduated from college, cancer-free in 2010.

A funny mural painted by the chicken coop.
Olivewood Gardens is filled with natural beauty.
A nursery on the grounds, overlooking National City Golf Course.
Taking a trail few other visitors travel.
On the hill above the golf course, Olivewood Gardens is growing dragon fruit! These interesting cacti are indigenous to the Americas.
Making our way back to the Victorian house. This is where many classes, events and activities are held at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.
A mermaid sculpture beside the house.
Hand prints from the four members of the Walton family.
The kitchen area, where healthy cooking classes for students and parents take place.
Gorgeous stained glass window in the nearby dining room, where presentations to local teachers are also made.

The following few photos provide a taste of the house’s amazing interior decoration.

An old photograph in one room shows the house as it appeared over a century ago. Today the historic house remains in absolutely pristine condition.

Photograph of the Oliver H. Noyes home, circa 1900.
A smile at a very special place in National City!

Feeling inspired?

Do you want to volunteer, become an intern, learn gardening, take a cooking class, request a speaker, book a private event? Would you like to take steps toward becoming a community leader, so that you can create positive change?

Want to learn more?

Visit the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center website here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Sister tree of Balboa Park’s Moreton Bay Fig!

Did you know the huge Moreton Bay Fig tree in Balboa Park, which stands near the San Diego Natural History Museum, has a sister tree in National City?

I was surprised to learn this when I visited Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center today!

According to one sign at Olivewood Gardens, their Moreton Bay Fig, which shades a demonstration vegetable garden, was also planted in Balboa Park for the 1915 Panama California Exposition. But years ago it was transplanted to National City, and now students and families visiting Olivewood Gardens can gather in its ample shade.

Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center is a wonderful place where people from around the community can learn about gardening, preparing healthy food, protecting the environment, and becoming civic leaders. It’s located on the expansive grounds of an historic home that was donated for this cause by its philanthropic former owners. I will be blogging more about Olivewood Gardens shortly.

I was given an incredible tour of wonders all around National City today, and I’ll be sharing lots of inspiring and beautiful photographs, so stay tuned!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Water is Life mosaic in National City!

At Kimball Park in National City, a beautiful mosaic above a drinking fountain affirms that Water is Life!

This colorful public art provides an interesting contrast to the mosaic in my previous post: the fiery Firewall in front of the Solana Beach Fire Department.

Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I believe these two fantastic Water is Life panels were the work of A Reason To Survive (ARTS) and local youth. Like other mosaics in and around Kimball Park, it was conceived as part of ARTS’ Creating Vibrant Neighborhoods Initiative.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

National City mural honors Manuel “Memo” Cavada.

I enjoyed another walk through National City today. I wanted to photograph a mural that was unveiled earlier this month outside the National City Chamber of Commerce.

You might recall I posted a blog about its “upcoming debut” when I glimpsed a small corner of the brand new artwork beneath a protective tarp.

As I wrote then, the mural memorializes “the life of Manuel “Memo” Cavada, a longtime community photographer who passed away in 2020 after having captured 50 years of local history.” It was painted by artists Guillermo Aranda, Sal Barajas and David Avalos… Here’s a link to a great article concerning it.

Well, the mural is now in full view, and it is glorious.

Check it out!

I’ve collected loads more photographs from several recent walks, so I might be posting more actively than I anticipated a few days ago. Stay tuned!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The amazing mosaic wall on A Avenue at Kimball Park!

Have you seen the amazing 300-foot mosaic wall along A Avenue at National City’s Kimball Park? If you haven’t, you really need to!

This extraordinary public art was created in 2015 by local students, community volunteers and the nationally recognized local organization A Reason To Survive (also known as ARTS). It is part of ARTS’ Creating Vibrant Neighborhoods Initiative. Numerous public art projects have beautified National City and uplifted young lives.

The long A Avenue mosaic wall depicts water flowing through National City’s watershed to the ocean. Tiles, clay shapes and small objects represent blue water, fishes, birds, animals and meaningful bits of life from the community. The wall stretches along a row of parking spaces just east of City Hall.

A Reason To Survive has been working for years to beautify our small corner of the world, and perhaps more importantly, to provide hope and inspiration to at-risk South Bay youth. Their innovative art programs have transformed literally thousands of young lives. The ARTS Center is located on 12th Street a short distance east of this wall.

I believe another mosaic wall that I blogged about this year was also a Creating Vibrant Neighborhoods Initiative project. That wall is near the National City’s War Memorial and Veteran’s Wall of Honor, also located at Kimball Park. You can see those photographs here.

I’ve taken additional photos of other nearby ARTS mosaics, which I’ll be blogging about shortly!

(One more thing. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but A Reason To Survive also helped to create the Manzanita Gathering Place in City Heights. See those photos here.)

Okay! Now enjoy a look at this truly amazing A Avenue wall…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

More colorful faces in National City!

During my long walk through San Diego’s South Bay last weekend, I spotted street art in National City that I hadn’t previously photographed.

Three colorful faces on electrical boxes!

The first happy face, in the above photograph, was discovered near the corner of 8th Street and National City Boulevard. That box used to feature some fun Star Wars artwork. You can see those old photos here!

The next two faces were observed near the intersection of Plaza Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

Here they are!

(It appeared there were more painted boxes had I continued north on Highland. I’ll check those out on a future walk!)

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Working to clean and beautify National City!

During my visit to the fun “A Kimball Holiday” event on Saturday, I met a couple of guys who are working to clean and beautify National City!

In an effort to promote a pedestrian corridor along Interstate 805, they are asking the public which improvements would be most important. Native and drought-resistant landscaping, trash and recycling receptacles, lighting, signage and more are being considered.

I don’t live in National City, but I am a very big walker who passes through its neighborhoods from time to time, so obviously I was excited to hear of this effort!

The guys I spoke to are hoping to receive a Caltrans Clean California Program grant to implement this positive vision for the community.

All I can say is, National City certainly deserves these improvements. This community might be a bit under-resourced, but its residents are equal members of the California family.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!