There’s Something Special about this Place
If you are reading this, I think you already know that there is
something very special about the San Diego Botanic Garden. As President
and CEO, I see evidence of this reflected in the continued growth of our
annual attendance, membership, donors, and our incredible volunteers.
It’s a perfect example how the whole – the plants, the vistas, the
beauty, the community programs, and, of course, the people who work,
volunteer, and visit here – is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Those who feel the strongest are people who have been involved with the Garden the longest. Now, they may still call us Quail Botanical Gardens (and there is nothing wrong with that) but they will also tell you there is something special about this place whatever the name. The beauty of nature and the search for solace draws people to the Garden, but once you become a regular Garden visitor there is a special relationship that develops. It’s similar to the way we make friends and how, over time, those bonds deepen and become even more cherished. The growing number of people who feel a bond or kinship with the Garden bodes very well for
its long-term future.
No entity is ever truly an island and the Garden has several neighbors who also make it very special. Our neighbor to the north and west of our Hamilton Children’s Garden is the world-famous Paul Ecke Ranch. The Ecke Family has long played an important role in the development of the Garden. It was Paul Ecke Sr. who was among the founders of the Quail Botanical Gardens Foundation. Thanks to his efforts (and many others) the County, which then operated the Garden, was convinced to change the name from Quail Park to Quail Botanical Gardens; thus, changing forever the focus for this special place.
The Ecke Family is no longer owner of the Ranch, but they remain valued friends of the Garden. Our new and most welcome neighbor and owner of that 67-acre special place is The Leichtag Foundation. There is great synergy between the Garden’s mission “to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature” and what The Leichtag Foundation envisions for the Ranch – a pursuit of sustainable agriculture connected to historic Jewish agricultural practices and food justice.
The conversation about uniting with our neighbors started with Jim Farley, President/CEO of The Leichtag Foundation, Timothy Baird, Encinitas Union School District Superintendent, Casey Sclar, Executive Director of the American Public Garden Association, and me representing the Garden. Casey helped inspire this unique opportunity for collaboration by noting the similarity of our missions and the unique proximity of the Garden, the Ranch and the School District’s Agro-Ecology Learning Center (AELC) which is due to become operational in the fall of this year.
“This adjacency and symmetry of missions simply does not exist anywhere else in the country,” says Casey.
Jim Farley and others at The Leichtag Foundation then helped to bring together three additional neighbors that now form the “Encinitas Environmental Education (E3) Cluster.” So the six members of the E3 Cluster are: Encinitas Union School District, Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, San Diego Botanic Garden, San Dieguito Heritage Museum, Seacrest Village Retirement Communities and The Leichtag Foundation.
Each partner will be further strengthened by sustaining this relationship. The Garden has just signed a lease for use of greenhouse space on Leichtag Foundation Ranch land adjacent to the Garden; and the Ranch will not be charging rent in lieu of the Garden providing horticultural advice and propagation services to the Ranch.
Also of significant importance are our future plans with the Encinitas Union School District. Their soon-to-open AELC is right across Quail Garden’s Drive from the Hamilton Children’s Garden where we have just begun fundraising efforts to add the Education and Events Pavilion (EEP). The School District has already been advising us on the design of the facility anticipating that they will enter into a use agreement for the EEP which will augment the functioning of the AELC.
On April 4, 2014, all six entities convened and signed a memo of understanding outlining their agreement “to develop educational, experiential learning and multigenerational programs around the nexus of agriculture, horticulture, nutrition, science, sustainability, community building and the local history and agricultural traditions of Encinitas.” The City of Encinitas is very fortunate to be home to this unique assemblage of institutions.
The creation of the E3 Cluster, this union of partners, is just another example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I am very pleased that the Garden plays an important role in making this hub in Encinitas a special place for all of greater San Diego and beyond.
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From left to right: Dr. Timothy Baird, Superintendent, Encinitas Union School District; Jim Farley, President & CEO, Leichtag Foundation; Susan Hight, Executive Director, Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA; Pam Ferris, President & CEO, Seacrest Village Retirement Communities; Roger Bolus, Board Member, San Dieguito Heritage Museum; Julian Duval, President & CEO, San Diego Botanic Garden.