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Visitors to Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden Leave No Trace

Jessica Travis, Director, Sustainability and Community Relations, Balboa Park Cultural Partnership; Chad Reese, Sr. Environmental Specialist | Environmental Affairs, San Diego International Airport; Marisa Espinosa, Operations Assistant, Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego

One of the hidden gems of San Diego’s Balboa Park is the Japanese Friendship Garden.  The garden grew from a simple teahouse during the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition and is tucked into the canyon next to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.  With a discrete entrance by the modern Japanese café, it’s surprising that this “secret garden” is second only to the Zoo in terms of the cultural space that it occupies within the grounds of Balboa Park.  At the entry level are winding paths, shaded areas for meditation, Japanese lanterns and bonsai trees.  Visitors could come and go unaware of a spacious valley which opens up to visitors as they turn the corner of what looks like the end of the garden.  This reveals a beautiful stream which carves through a valley with Koi ponds, traditional Japanese bridges and beautifully crafted buildings which house exhibits of Japanese culture and provide a special place for wedding celebrations.  Descend the winding paths into the valley for a sense of serenity that fortifies visitors before they enter the bustle of the public spaces above. 

It’s fitting that this garden, which exemplifies balance and harmony with nature, is the first of the attractions at Balboa Park to offer its own customized version of The Good Traveler carbon offset tag.

If you have concerns about the cost of bringing back a samurai sword as a souvenir of your visit, $2 will buy a tag that can be stuck on your bag or laptop.  One of those dollars goes to fund the Japanese Friendship Garden’s environmental programs organized in concert with the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, the other purchases a carbon offset that funds projects offsetting the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from 200 miles of driving or 500 miles of flying.

Visitors to Balboa Park can appreciate the balance of the elements on display at the Japanese Friendship Garden.  When they leave they can then balance the environmental impact from their journey with an investment in water restoration, forestry and sustainable energy so that, as good travelers, they leave no trace.


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