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A Walk in the Park

By Jim McCloskey

9-5 travelogue artA few weeks back, I came across a story on a celebration that ran off the rails in San Diego’s Balboa Park. 

In the wee hours of August 12, a party instantly organized on social media lured an estimated 1,500 people to participate in a gigantic water fight.  Unfortunately, the park’s largest open and available source of water to fuel the festivities was the iconic Lily Pond in front of the Botanical Building.  Significant damage was done to the plants and fish during the ensuing fiasco, but news reports say the cleanup is complete and that the pond is recovering.

I bring this up because the Lily Pond is a source of fond memories for me as both a child and a parent – so many, in fact, that I immediately decided that my next Travelogue would carry us there.

I first visited Balboa Park when I was eight or nine years old as part of a family outing to see the famous San Diego Zoo.  After a long, hot day among the animals, we unwound a bit in the cooler confines of Balboa Park.  I clearly remember the big lily pads in the pond, mainly because they compared so favorably with the stunted, tangled mess of aquatic plants I regularly saw in my next-door neighbor’s small backyard pond.

This was a trip I repeated many times with my own children.  We visited the zoo on our first trip, but on many subsequent visits we headed right for the park, where the pond and the big fountain were always favorite attractions.

The pond and the Botanical Building were installed in anticipation of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, which commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal.  During World War II, the pond was repurposed by the U.S. Navy (which took over the park for the duration of the war, transforming it into a naval hospital) as a pool for swimming instruction and aquatic therapy.

It’s an extremely cool place – well worth a visit if you’re lucky enough to spend some time in San Diego, which I’ve always considered one of my favorite places to visit.

For a quick video introduction to the park (including some nice views of the lily pond), click here.

For details on the unfortunate water fight, click here.

Photo at top courtesy www.sandiegodigitalphotos.com.

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