We will start from the beginning of the wonderful journey of adventure of Balboa Park Bennington Memorial Oak Grove.
In 2014, the newly elected California State Regent, Carol Oakley Jackson, requested that all Chapter Regents report on historic oaks in their respective areas. In this pursuit I decided to concentrate on the center of San Diego and Balboa Park. We would be celebrating our Centennial of Balboa Park in 2015 and finding historic oaks would be a great possibility.
In this quest for historic Oaks, I came across the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove which is quite significant. In my research I found that after the explosion of the USS Bennington in the San Diego harbor, a local Fraternal Organization who were already in the midst of a plan to honor those that had passed away from their various organizations, immediately decided to include all those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedom – the 66 crew members of the Bennington. This was the birth of the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove.
So I approached Friends of Balboa Park regarding the Grove and found that they had initiated the new program “Adopt-A-Plot” and saw that the Grove was open for adoption. This led me to my association with Jaime Diez of the San Diego Park and Recreation Department and his wonderful support of what I had envisioned for the enhancement of the Grove. I followed the process as outlined and signed up as our chapter’s representative to adopt the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove.
In this process I approached a member of my Executive Board, Judith Reale, who was at that time, our Registrar. As we are a volunteer women’s charitable organization we also have our talents as professionals. Judith is a Landscape Designer and drew up what I had envisioned on paper so that we could present it to the Park and Recreation Department for their approval. We received our approval and the process began.
We raised money from our chapter members to support the grove improvements. The easy way to do this would have been to just set my plan in action and do it with the volunteers in our organization. This would keep it in-house but what good with this have been on a broader scale of supporting our National Organizations goals of Historic Preservation, Education and
Patriotism? At this time I was reminded of a friend of mine, Linda Allison, who happened to serve as District Advancement Chairman in the Boy Scouts of America program. I had been a Girl Scout, and my brother was a Boy Scout, which left me with very fond memories of these programs for strengthening our youth. We talked about the Eagle rank process and she gave me great advice on how I could help Life Scouts obtain their rank as an Eagle Scout. We came up with a plan on how to break up my large idea into several boy-size service projects. The call was posted on the local San Diego-Imperial Council Boy Scout website!
Over the course of time I have been approached by several Scouts that have chosen a project that I have presented to them. As the beneficiary I explained to each of the Scouts what I expected from each of them and outlined and consulted each of them in their specific project. The first was the Bridge that was built on the opposite side of the Grove. Josh Ortega who was highly motivated, consulted on where the placement of the bridge should be, along with any particulars I had in mind. He came up with a plan, worked his plan, and built a beautifully constructed bridge just in the right place to start off the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove Project!
Next I was approached by Sam Kenney to start the opening path of the grove and welcome circle as I now call it. We wanted to line the path and Jaime assisted us in this part as he told me that he had several trees that had been cut down in another part of the park. They were just piled in his maintenance yard and we were more than welcome to use them in the project. Sam jumped at the chance and they were delivered to the site for his use. What a wonderful way to repurpose the use for these trees that had served so well to give shade. The San Diego Chapter, DAR supported the Scouts on their day of service by bringing nourishment and morale support for the team of volunteers.
In the meantime I had approached Jaime Diez about the crumbling and broken curbing that went all the way around the Grove. He informed me that it was the City of San Diego’s responsibility to fix this problem. I also pointed out that as people left the Grove they did not have any protection or designated path to the signal so that they could cross the intersection safely. The City stepped up and did a magnificent job of replacing the curbing all along 26th Street to the top of the hill, added a protected pathway across the crosswalk around the fence to the signal. The City also added a bike lane and a safety order around the curve by the golf course for the traffic.
The next item was that of the kiosk. Frederick Persons volunteered to build the kiosk for us. It was to be placed at the heart of the Grove in the Welcome Circle. He presented a plan and followed through with plenty of support from family, friends and leaders. On the day of placement of the kiosk Frederick pointed out that he found one of his volunteers was actually related to one of the men that lost his life on the Bennington. What a connection was made for this young man and his personal connection to the grove and being able to contribute his talents to honor a family member.
On Sam Kinney’s project I met the next Scout, Erik Ortlieb, who volunteered to build the Arbor that stands at the entrance to the Grove. It proudly mounted with the name of the Grove in bright bold letters for all to upon entering the Grove.
Next was the job of connecting the Welcome Circle to the bridge with a wide path laid with material for walking and continuing the lining of the path with the re-purposing of the Parks trees. Max Thomson dove right in and drafted the plan to have volunteers on several occasions to donate their time and brawn to create the path through the grove. In 1905 the President of the United States was Theodore Roosevelt a great conservationist was in shock over this disaster. San Diego being a large community of naval personnel, I volunteered my services, to contact the U.S.S. Roosevelt to have crew members from the ship join us in this project. They were to be under the leadership of Max Thomson. The crew members appeared and followed the leadership instructions from Max on the designated morning.
We would like to give special thanks to the crew members of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) that on a few occasions came to the site of the grove to help out with the project. They were a great help in giving this young Scout, Max Thomson, the “Braun” needed to complete the placement of logs for the path through the Grove. The crew of the Roosevelt was a perfect compliment to this project as Theodore Roosevelt was the U.S. President at the time of its creation. President Roosevelt, a conservationist, would have been overjoyed that the citizens of San Diego had placed this Memorial Grove for the crew of the Bennington that had lost their lives during the explosion in our San Diego Harbor as they were on their way to rescue another ship in distress. The crew of the Theodore Roosevelt were delighted to help in this project that is a Naval Memorial to others who lost their life in service to their Country.
U.S.S. Roosevelt helps with the heavy lifting
This project is now at the point of getting the information onto a kiosk which normally holds information about the designated historic place. This causes a dilemma as there is so much to tell about this wonderful place and not much room to do it. We would like to be in the 21st Century and speak about history. The limited space of the kiosk would not be sufficient for teaching visitors about history. So the request was to have a website built and QR code attached to the kiosk in order to direct the visitors to an online site where they could have much more information in the palm of their hand and be able to reflect upon it in the future as well. Hence the need for a web page to be designed to contain so much more information. Andrew Rosener took on the project and has done a wonderful job of coordinating volunteers and bringing together the information that was requested showing his leadership qualities and love of Scouting by showing off the skills that he has learned over the years he has been associated with the Scouts. Thank you Andrew, as you are now a recipient of his project, because you are now able to read my thoughts about this whole experience.
There are more things on the horizon. You can always help us by donating money to the designated to the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove so that we can replace dead trees and care for the ones that are in place. We thank all the women of the San Diego Chapter, NS DAR for their donation of time, materials, monetary funds, and moral support for the completion of this project.
We welcome you to the Grove and hope that you enjoy the peace and serenity, a simple gift, especially at the center of one of the larger cities in the nation. We humbly thank the men of the U.S.S. Bennington for their service to us and for their ultimate sacrifice by caring for the Grove and respecting their patriotic service through our caring for the Memorial Grove planted in their honor.
Yours in service;
San Diego Chapter, NSDAR
Historian and Bennington Memorial Oak Grove Chair
For questions regarding this website please e-mail Kate Colby at firstname.lastname@example.org
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