Creative urban trees add smiles to a San Diego walk.

Heading down the Bayshore Bikeway on Coronado Island, with a bit of downtown San Diego in the background.
Heading down the Bayshore Bikeway on Coronado Island, with a bit of downtown San Diego in the background.

My random walks around San Diego are full of surprises. I’m always excited to stumble upon one of those immensely fun sculptures that used to be part of the Urban Trees exhibitions on the Embarcadero.

From 2003 to 2011, seven different Urban Trees projects were funded by the Port of San Diego. Each exhibition featured about 30 unique sculptures, standing downtown at intervals along San Diego Bay. This public artwork was made from a whole range of different materials, including wood, copper, glass, tiles and steel. The fanciful pieces were selected by juried artist competitions, and when the Urban Trees exhibitions came to an end after about one year, many of the creations were sold by the artists to various collectors, institutions, businesses and public entities.

So there are times when I just can’t help smiling, because I happen to encounter one of the transplanted “trees” during a walk.

Perhaps you’ve already seen a few of these highly creative sculptures on my Cool San Diego Sights blog. If not, then click here.

Or here.

Or here.

Or here.

Or here.

Or here.

Or finally here!

My Bike, by Amos Robinson, 2008. This inventive kinetic sculpture turns in the wind. It was part of the Port of San Diego's fun Urban Trees 5 exhibition.
My Bike, by Amos Robinson, 2008. This inventive kinetic sculpture turns in the wind. It was part of the Port of San Diego’s fun Urban Trees 5 exhibition.
A steel bicyclist with wildly blowing hair flies through the blue sky past some Southern California palm trees!
A steel bicyclist with wildly blowing hair flies through the blue sky past some Southern California palm trees!
This colorful sculpture was part of Urban Trees 2. It's called A Different, But Loving Pair, by Cecilia Stanford. It's made of handmade tile and mosaic.
This colorful sculpture was part of Urban Trees 2. It’s called A Different But Loving Pair, by Cecilia Stanford. It’s made of handmade tile and mosaic.
Whimsical public artwork that now stands across the parking lot from the Port of San Diego building, on Pacific Highway.
Whimsical public artwork that now stands across the parking lot from the Port of San Diego building on Pacific Highway.
Visitors to San Diego's Embarcadero walk past a looming dragon!
Visitors to San Diego’s Embarcadero walk past a looming dragon!
Sea Dragon, by artist Deana Mando, 2006. This fantastic creation was part of the Urban Trees 3 exhibition. It's now seen by many people.
Sea Dragon, by artist Deana Mando, 2006. This fantastic creation was part of the Urban Trees 3 exhibition. It’s now seen by many people.
My walks around San Diego are frequently interrupted by dragons and other very cool sights!
My walks around San Diego are frequently interrupted by dragons and other very cool sights!

UPDATE!

Here are a few more photos of three Urban Trees in front of the Cruise Ship Terminal! (I took the following pics in early 2017.)

Three sculptures by the San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal on the Embarcadero were part of Urban Tree exhibitions in past years.
Three sculptures by the San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal on the Embarcadero were part of Urban Trees exhibitions in past years.
Green Fire, Robert Verhees, 2006.
Green Fire, Robert Verhees, 2006.
Tap Root and Growth, Christopher Lee.
Tap Root and Growth, Christopher Lee. I can’t find a year.
Orange Tree, Guy and Ellen Mayenobe, 2007.
Orange Tree, Guy and Ellen Mayenobe, 2007.

ANOTHER RANDOM UPDATE!

Some of the Urban Trees that have been acquired by the Port of San Diego are moved around from place to place. I’ve observed that the Sea Dragon was moved to Pepper Park in National City in early 2017.

I’ve also noticed from the window of the trolley that the Fish Tree by Zbigniew Pingot and Tobias Flores, which used to stand with those three other sculptures in front of the Cruise Ship Terminal, is now located in the northwest corner of the Port of San Diego’s parking lot! A Different But Loving Pair no longer occupies that corner of their parking lot! Where it is, I don’t know!

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Living metal palm trees rise into San Diego sky.

Seven curving metal palm trees rise into the beautiful San Diego sky in Bayfront Plaza.
Seven curving metal palm trees rise into the beautiful San Diego sky at Bayfront Plaza.

These are photographs of “living metal” under changing skies. Since 2008, seven stainless steel abstract palm trees have stood in front of San Diego’s Bayfront Hilton, moving gently on windy days. I’ve taken many photos of these unique sculptures over the years. They were created by artist Ned Kahn.

Wind Palms, Ned Kahn, 2008. Stainless steel kinetic sculptures in front of Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
Wind Palms, Ned Kahn, 2008. Stainless steel kinetic sculptures in front of Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
People walk beneath unique tree-like art between the San Diego Convention Center and the Hilton hotel.
People walk beneath unique tree-like art between the San Diego Convention Center and the Hilton hotel.
Silvery, sun-reflecting stainless steel ribbon leaves of the Wind Palms move very slightly in the sea breeze.
The silvery, sun-reflecting stainless steel ribbon “leaves” of the Wind Palms move very slightly in the sea breeze.
Looking upward at different geometric patterns. The trees are supposed to rotate in the wind, but I've never seen it.
Looking upward at different geometric patterns. The curving fronds rotate when the wind’s direction changes.
Seagulls circle high above the palm-like kinetic sculptures on a gray, cloudy day.
Seagulls circle high above the palm-like kinetic sculptures on a gray, cloudy day.
Walking along near the Hilton, heading toward the edge of San Diego Bay.
Walking along near the Hilton, heading toward the edge of San Diego Bay.
Shining trees in a cloudless blue sky.
Shining trees in a cloudless blue sky.

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9-foot-tall talking tree coming to Balboa Park!

A fairy puppet and smiling puppeteer pose for my camera in San Diego's wonder-filled Balboa Park.
A fairy puppet and smiling puppeteer pose for my camera in San Diego’s wonder-filled Balboa Park.

I made a magical discovery today during my walk through wonder-filled Balboa Park!

This nice lady was passing by the House of Hospitality with a large fairy puppet, testing it for reactions from kids! I learned her daughter, Julie Otto, creator of Julie’s Puppet Creations, is going to have experimental, larger-than-life puppets featured at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater!

The production is called Whispers of the Forest, and it will be showing at the theater for a two week span, beginning the week before Earth Day. Fun marionettes will be featured, in addition to a 9-foot-tall talking tree, and it sounded to me as if it’s going to be great!

San Diego's Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park has showtimes at 11, 1 and 2:30, Wednesday through Sunday.
San Diego’s Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park has showtimes at 11, 1 and 2:30, Wednesday through Sunday.
The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater is a place of magic and fun for kids and warm-hearted adults alike!
The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater is a place of magic and fun for kids and warmhearted adults alike!

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Marriott Marquis and a hidden parklike hollow.

The silvery curving towers of the Marriott Marquis as seen from across Harbor Drive. The cluster of trees on the right contain a wonderful secret.
The silvery curving towers of the Marriott Marquis as seen from across Harbor Drive. The cluster of trees on the right contains a wonderful secret.

I’ve lived in downtown San Diego for years and years. But apparently I still have much to discover. Because I had no idea that the Marriott Marquis on our waterfront has a hidden parklike hollow, in a place where seemingly few people venture.

The quiet green space, with a beautiful lawn, fountain, waterfalls, koi and ducks is partially concealed in an island of trees. You’ll find it set back a short distance from Harbor Drive, at the center of the looping driveway that leads to the Marriott’s front entrance.

There’s no clear footpath to the hollow. But there is a fish food dispenser and a couple of stone benches, and plenty of tranquil beauty. Hotel guests who’d like to unwind and quietly relax have their own secret garden, a place for meditation in the middle of bustling San Diego!

We've crossed Harbor Drive and are walking on the driveway, carefully watching for cars and buses.
We’ve crossed Harbor Drive and are walking on the driveway, carefully watching for cars and buses.
Within the trees there's a tranquil, inviting green space.
Within the trees there’s a tranquil, inviting green space.
Grass, rippling water, and a mixture of shade and sunshine fill a small parklike hollow in front of the Marriott Marquis in San Diego.
Grass, rippling water, and a mixture of shade and sunshine fill a parklike hollow in front of the Marriott Marquis in San Diego.
These ducks are enjoying a small artificial stream among some rocks.
These ducks are enjoying a small artificial stream among some rocks.
Two beautiful stone benches invite meditation.
Two beautiful stone benches invite meditation.
The koi wouldn't mind a bit of food thrown their way!
The koi wouldn’t mind a bit of food tossed their way!
A shining pond reflects the nearby hotel and flagpoles on another perfect San Diego day.
A shining pond reflects the nearby hotel and flagpoles on another pleasant San Diego day.

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USS Bennington Memorial Oak Grove in Balboa Park.

A beautiful live oak grove in Balboa Park honors men who died tragically on the USS Bennington in 1905.
A beautiful live oak grove in Balboa Park honors men who died tragically on the USS Bennington in 1905.

Balboa Park is without a doubt one of America’s national treasures. Located just north of downtown San Diego, its 1,200 acres is the home of magnificent museums, gardens, architectural marvels, many recreational facilities and perhaps the world’s most famous zoo. The amazing urban park is so gigantic most visitors see only a small fraction of it. Some out-of-the-way corners of Balboa Park are enjoyed by locals who live nearby; other overlooked areas seem almost forgotten.

The USS Bennington Memorial Oak Grove is one such area. While many drive by it on any given day, as they travel along 26th Street just before it turns into Florida Drive, and a few joggers pass through the shady grove, I’d wager only a handful of San Diegans know of the oak grove’s existence or historical significance.

There are 66 live oak trees in this grove. They were planted to memorialize 66 men killed on the USS Bennington on the morning of July 21, 1905, when the gunboat’s boiler suddenly exploded and the ship nearly sank in San Diego’s harbor. No markers in the grove indicate the significance of the large gnarled oaks. (A 60 foot high granite obelisk stands at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma, a memorial to those sailors who died on the USS Bennington. Most of the dead are buried there.)

The USS Bennington was a warship with a long and proud history. Commissioned in 1891, she was the ship that claimed Wake Island for the United States. After the boiler explosion in San Diego Bay, eleven men were awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism.

Earlier this year, when I visited an exhibit in Balboa Park created by The Daughters of the American Revolution San Diego Chapter, I learned the local DAR would like to place plaques in the grove to memorialize the USS Bennington and the men who tragically died. If you, your business or organization would like information about the project, or to help, you might contact them from their page.  Should this project come to fruition, I’ll be very pleased to blog about it!

View of the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove from Golden Hill Park, located near the southeast corner of Balboa Park. The Balboa Park Golf Club and Naval Medical Center San Diego are also visible.
View of the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove from Golden Hill Park, located near Balboa Park’s southeast corner. Balboa Park’s public golf course and Naval Medical Center San Diego are also visible.
Wooden footbridge along 26th Street leads to a little-used trail through USS Bennington Memorial Oak Grove in Balboa Park.
Wooden footbridge along 26th Street leads to a little-used trail through USS Bennington Memorial Oak Grove in Balboa Park.
Sixty large old oak trees memorialize 60 sailers killed in 1905 when the USS Bennington's boiler exploded in San Diego's nearby harbor.
Beautiful old oak trees memorialize 66 sailors killed in 1905 when the USS Bennington’s boiler exploded in San Diego’s nearby harbor.
Looking up through the leaves of the live oak trees at blue sky and clouds.
Looking up through the leaves of the live oak trees at blue sky and clouds.
These trees, honoring fallen men, remind us of a sudden tragic moment in San Diego history.
These trees, honoring fallen men, remind us of a sudden tragic moment in San Diego’s military history.
A commercial airplane flies overhead as it crosses Balboa Park heading in toward Lindbergh Field.
A commercial airplane flies overhead as it crosses Balboa Park heading in toward Lindbergh Field.
A jogger enjoys the shady old trees on a warm day in early October.
A jogger enjoys the shady old trees on a warm day in early October.

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Crossing the cool Spruce Street Suspension Bridge.

Couple crosses Kate Sessions Canyon on a cool 375 foot long suspension bridge!
Couple crosses Kate Sessions Canyon on a very long suspension bridge!

If you love cool bridges, the Bankers Hill neighborhood just north of downtown San Diego is the place to go!

I blogged about the Quince Street Trestle and First Avenue Bridge a while back. But an even more awesome bridge (in my opinion) can be found on Spruce Street!

The classic Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is located just west of First Avenue and crosses narrow Kate Sessions Canyon. It’s an amazing, breathtaking 375 feet long! Steel cables support a gently swaying passage through and above treetops, and a walk along its length feels like a small, romantic adventure. The bridge was designed by Edwin Capps, the city engineer who was also responsible for plans to dredge San Diego Bay, and who would go on to be elected mayor. (It was Capps who hired the rainmaker Charley Hatfield, the central character in one of San Diego’s most legendary tales! Perhaps I’ll blog about it one day…)

Built in 1912, the purpose of the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge was to provide easy access for those who lived to the west to trolley lines on Fourth and Fifth Avenue.

The Spruce Street steel cable suspension footbridge, engineered by Edwin Capps, was erected in 1912.
The Spruce Street steel cable suspension footbridge, engineered by Edwin Capps, was erected in 1912.
Wouldn't you like to walk out on this bridge.
Wouldn’t you like to walk out on this bridge?
The swaying suspension bridge is a unique, historic structure just north of downtown San Diego.
The swaying suspension bridge is a unique, historic structure just north of downtown San Diego.
Lots of people love this hidden bridge. You feel like you're crossing through a wilderness of treetops!
Lots of people love this hidden bridge. You feel like you’re crossing through a wilderness of treetops!
Bicyclists enjoy a dirt trail 70 feet below.
Bicyclists enjoy a dirt trail 70 feet below.
Boy sits thoughtfully on the Spruce Street suspension bridge in Bankers Hill.
Boy sits thoughtfully on the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge in Bankers Hill.

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San Diego River trees recover from microburst.

The roots are almost completely torn out of the ground, but the stubborn tree in spring has green leaves!
The roots were almost completely torn out of the ground, but the stubborn tree in spring has green leaves!

Perhaps you read my blog post about the violent microburst that tore through San Diego’s Mission Valley on September 16, 2014. Along with photos of the aftermath, I described the tornado-like winds of the freak weather phenomenon.

A microburst is a localized downdraft of wind that can occur under unstable weather conditions. Several areas around San Diego were struck by a microburst that day, and the resulting damage was stunning. Small airplanes at an airport were tossed through the air.  Along the banks of the San Diego River, hundreds of trees were torn to shreds and uprooted.

This morning, 7 months later, I walked along the river path where I had scrambled over thickly fallen trees right after the natural disaster.

Many of the uprooted trees were removed by crews with chainsaws in the days that followed the microburst. But some were not. Check out a few pics from my walk this spring morning! Like the famous quote from the movie Jurassic Park, life finds a way!

One of hundreds of trees that were uprooted during the super violent microburst last September.
One of hundreds of trees that were uprooted during the super violent microburst last September.  Amazingly, this one still flourishes!
This fallen tree is now growing horizontally like a hedge along a Mission Valley sidewalk!
This fallen tree is now growing horizontally like a hedge along a Mission Valley sidewalk!
Sign beside the San Diego River Trail. Why fallen trees are okay! There are important benefits to the soil, flora and fauna.
Sign beside the San Diego River Trail. Why fallen trees are okay! There are important benefits to the soil, flora and fauna.

The sign reads:

When a tree falls most people want to remove it from where it has fallen. However, sometimes it is best if we urge people not to be too quick to tidy up. It is often very beneficial to leave the tree, mound of soil, rocks and roots lifted by the tree if they aren’t in the way or dangerous.

The soil eventually will settle as the wood rots, and these tree-root soil mounds are the real “windfall” for some plants and animals. Consider these examples: The bare soil on the mound is home for several mosses that prefer a drier spot free of competition. The space under the lifted roots makes a good place for an animal to dig a breeding den. Wet soil left behind can make a temporary pool for amphibians.

Green shoots look unusual on violently torn tree trunk. I believe this is a Fremont Cottonwood.
Green shoots look unusual on this violently torn tree trunk. I believe this is a Fremont Cottonwood.
Life springs from a broken stump after a devastating natural disaster.
Life springs forth from a broken stump months after a devastating natural disaster.

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Glean Queens of San Diego need your help!

Got extra fruit. Got time. Help fight hunger and have a load of fun, too!
Got extra fruit? Got time? Help fight hunger and have a load of fun, too!

Do you love to be out in the San Diego sunshine, among friendly people and fragrant fruit trees? Do you hate to see delicious, nutritious fruit just lying there on the ground, beginning to rot? Do you, perhaps, own fruit trees in your backyard and struggle to give the abundant harvest away? Would you like to help some hungry people?

If you’re looking for a fun opportunity to volunteer and make a positive change in the lives of San Diegans, read on! Some fantastic ladies whom I met at EarthFair need your help! They’re the Glean Queens!

These three ladies are making the world a better place. Join them!
These three ladies are making the world a better place. Join them!

The Glean Queens have undertaken a very important project. It’s called CropSwap. The perfectly named CropSwap (part of their organization ProduceGood) solves a huge problem. The problem of tragically wasted food–locally grown fruit, to be exact.

Sunny Southern California is thick with citrus and other fruit trees. Many residents have them on their property. Many of the established trees provide more fruit than a family can possibly use. Why should the excess become useless garbage?

Help save nutritious oranges, lemons, limes, avocados, tangerines...you name it!
Help save valuable, nutritious oranges, lemons, limes, avocados, tangerines…you name it!

According to the USDA, a whopping 40% of crops go to waste. And here’s another shocking statistic: 20% of San Diegans have difficulty getting enough food to eat.

CropSwap coordinates fruit tree owners and volunteer pickers, and arranges the collection of excess fruit that would otherwise be wasted. The fruit is then delivered to San Diego food banks. An excellent (and common sense) idea!

So all you fruit tree owners and future volunteer pickers in and around San Diego! Click here to visit the ProduceGood website and learn how you can personally help, in a very tangible and rewarding way, to fight hunger!

You can easily make a positive difference in San Diego!
You can easily make a positive difference in San Diego!

Spread the word!

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The large Moreton Bay Fig tree in Balboa Park.

This is one of the largest trees you're likely to ever see.
This is one of the most amazing trees you’re likely to ever see.

Have you visited Balboa Park? Perhaps you’ve seen an incredibly enormous tree standing between the San Diego Natural History Museum and Spanish Village. It’s impossible to miss! That’s the over 100 year old Moreton Bay Fig!

Sign in Balboa Park describes Ficus macrophylla, the Moreton Bay Fig.
Sign in Balboa Park describes Ficus macrophylla, the Moreton Bay Fig.

Ficus macrophylla

“Moreton Bay Fig”

Native to East Australia

This tree was planted prior to the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition and was the focus of a Formal Garden located at this site. Because of its large size, it is listed as a co-champion with the Santa Barbara Fig in the California Dept. of Forestry Registry of Big Trees.

Age: over 100 years (now)

Height: 80 feet

Trunk Girth: 42 feet

Canopy width: 145 feet

Trunk and roots of a tree once climbed by kids, but now fenced off for its protection.
Trunk and roots of a tree once climbed by kids, but now fenced off for its protection.
Huge Moreton Bay Fig tree and the San Diego Natural History Museum.
Huge Moreton Bay Fig tree and the San Diego Natural History Museum.
A big tree is a rare and valuable part of the ecosystem.
A big tree is a rare and valuable part of the ecosystem.

The Value of a Big Tree

Trees contribute to our environment by producing oxygen; reducing temperature, carbon-dioxide and stormwater runoff; improving property value and providing wildlife habitat.

Scientists have developed a value formula to determine the cost benefit of trees. The Center for Urban Forest Research states that trees over 50 feet tall contribute about $65.00/year back to the environment. Smaller trees contribute $18-36.00/year. There are about 20,000 trees in Balboa Park which contribute a value of one million dollars per year back to our environment.

Beyond dollars, Big Trees like the Moreton Bay Fig enhance the park, provide a sense of history to our community and a legacy for our children.

Someone gazes at the hundred year old leafy giant in Balboa Park.
Someone gazes at the hundred year old leafy giant in Balboa Park.

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Walk under cool bridges on Maple Canyon Trail.

View of the Quince Street Trestle from a spot on Fourth Avenue.
View of the Quince Street Trestle from a spot on Fourth Avenue.

Many nature hikes can be enjoyed in Balboa Park. But there’s another beautiful, quiet hike through date palms and eucalyptus trees and bright spring flowers that anyone can enjoy just a few blocks north of downtown San Diego.

The Maple Canyon Trail stretches from a trailhead near Quince Street and Third Avenue on Bankers Hill to a second trailhead at Maple Street and Dove Street in Middletown. It often seems that the only people who use the trail are dog walkers and joggers who live nearby. Those who haven’t hiked this easy trail are missing out on a unique experience. The Maple Canyon Trail passes under two cool historic bridges!

The Quince Street Trestle is a visually interesting wooden footbridge that was built in 1905. Back then streetcars ran up Fourth Avenue, and the trestle allowed pedestrians to cross the steep canyon from the west. A quarter century ago the bridge, weakened by termites and rot, was closed and almost demolished. Local residents took up the cause of saving the bridge, which was finally declared a historic site.

The Maple Canyon Trail also passes beneath the impressive First Avenue Bridge. The arched steel bridge was built in 1931 and was originally known as the Peoples Bridge. Its astonishing height above the trail is a reminder of San Diego’s unique geology. Southern California’s coastal region is crisscrossed in many places by deep, narrow canyons, which often serve as undeveloped habitat for native species of plant and animal life.

Small cabinet at end of footbridge contains books that people can freely borrow!
Small cabinet at end of footbridge contains books that people can freely borrow!
Walking across the very cool historic trestle on Bankers Hill.
Walking across the very cool historic trestle on Bankers Hill.
Looking down from the trestle at dogs and walker passing through the canyon below.
Looking down from trestle at dogs and walker passing through the canyon below.
This super cool condo is located near the Third Avenue trailhead.
This super cool condo is located near the Third Avenue trailhead.
Maple Canyon Open Space sign near trailhead on Bankers Hill.
Maple Canyon Open Space sign near trailhead on Bankers Hill.
Looking up at the wooden footbridge from the quiet footpath on a sunny day.
Looking up at the wooden footbridge from the quiet footpath on a sunny day.
Wooden beams compose the high trestle.
Wood beams compose the high trestle.
Grass and spring flowers line the Maple Canyon Trail.
Grass and spring flowers line the Maple Canyon Trail.
Some interesting houses can be seen up on the hillsides.
Some interesting houses can be seen up on the hillsides.
Here comes the First Avenue Bridge beyond a eucalyptus tree.
Here comes the First Avenue Bridge beyond a eucalyptus tree.
This elegant old steel bridge has very limited traffic.
This elegant old steel bridge has very limited motor traffic.

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