Friends of the Edwin and Frances Hunter Arboretum see a return to normal as the 10-acre preserve is prepared for upcoming community event.

SAN MARCOS — Two years after the Edwin and Frances Hunter Arboretum was closed in the wake of statewide COVID-19 restrictions, signs of life are reappearing in the award-winning nature preserve at Palomar College.

On Friday, April 22, 2022, a team of volunteers spent the day pulling weeds and cleaning the arboretum. And on Saturday, May 7, 2022, the Friends of the Edwin and Frances Hunter Arboretum will host a tour of the arboretum and adjacent Cactus & Succulent Garden, which houses some 4,000 species of its own.

“Now that the COVID restrictions have eased a bit, we’re trying to get a little closer to normal—which includes holding events to engage the community,” said Tony Rangel, Palomar’s Grounds Services Supervisor. “In the past, we’ve always done cleanup days right around Earth Day, and that was the occasion again this year.”

Rangel said about 10 students, plus a handful of staff and faculty, helped beautify the arboretum, which was in need of attention after more than two years of vacancy.

“It’s wonderful to see this beautiful natural resource reopen to the community, and we’re looking forward to many more engaging events inside one of San Marcos’ ‘hidden gems,’” said Palomar College Superintendent/President Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey.

The 10-acre preserve was renovated in 2019 to include ADA-compliant walking trails and water-saving irrigation. Founded in 1970, the arboretum was patiently cultivated by a team of community volunteers and college staff, and now includes more than 600 species of rare and endangered trees and plants.

In January 2021, a brush fire broke out near the top of the preserve, but was contained at 11 acres without any damage to structures or the arboretum itself.

“In the burn area, there were some invasive species that had germinated, so we wanted to get those perennial invasives out before they became an unwelcome part of the ecosystem up there,” Rangel said.

A small crew led by Biology and Botany professor Beth Pearson tackled that recovering acreage, Rangel added, “and it looks like they got all of the invasive species wiped out, so that was key.”

The Arboretum & Cactus Garden Tour, to be held from 9–11 a.m. on May 7, is limited to 30 visitors, with a handful of spaces still available. There is no cost for the event, but attendees will need to fill out a COVID-19 health questionnaire in advance.

Click here for more information about the upcoming tour.