Landscape Architecture

Palomar College Arboretum Trails Phase 1

The Palomar Arboretum at Palomar Community College opened in 1973. It was built on natural terrain with trails meandering through the property. The trails were not well defined, had uneven surfaces and included stone, wood and concrete stairs that were not compliant with building codes. Today there are over 600 species of plants on 10 acres, a sculpture garden by James Hubbel and his son, outdoor classrooms with granite boulders for seating, a new entry sign, a new irrigation system connected to an onsite well, and signage for the new ADA path. This project took years to come to fruition and was put on hold several times due to lack of funding and scheduling conflicts. In 2015, a donor provided an endowment for the first phase.

The Arboretum Trails Phase 1 project created a fully compliant ADA pathway through the existing Edwin & Frances Hunter Arboretum at Palomar College.  The Arboretum at Palomar College was started in 1970 by a group of students and staff members and has grown into a 9.9 acre collection of incredibly diverse and rare species from across the globe.  Prior to this project, visitors made their way through the Arboretum using various worn footpaths (some barley discernible) and hand made stairs made from old railroad ties and rocks.

The Arboretum Trails Phase 1 project created 3,145 LF (0.59  miles) of new visitor footpaths consisting of 5 foot wide decomposed granite adhering to the Division of State Architect’s ADA requirements.  The new trails transit a 26 foot elevation change throughout the lower portion of the Arboretum through the use of gradual slopes and one section of switch-backs.  The trails make extensive use of natural dry-stacked rock retaining walls on both the cut and fill sides of the new trail system.  All the rock used for the retaining walls came from the site and/or were generated by other building projects on the San Marcos campus.  The only stone bought for the project is the main entry monument stone which is etched with the name of the Arboretum.

Another major component of the project was the complete updating of the irrigation system to low flow and drip systems as well as converting the irrigation water from domestic water to a new 1400 foot deep irrigation well which has reduced the campus water bill by approximately 25%.  After the trails were completed, the project added another 1,000 plants to the collection including several endangered species such as the Wollemi Pine tree.  The trails now allow for a relaxing and leisurely stroll through the Bamboo Grove, Palm Garden, Oak Gulch, Hawaiian Palm and the Fossil Forest sections of the Arboretum.

Installation of the trails by LB Civil Construction was a very challenging affair which LB Civil performed exceptionally well.  The trails tried to follow the existing footpaths as much as possible while maintaining the necessary slope, avoiding granite rock outcrops, significant tree roots, culturally sensitive areas as well as the extensive plant collection themselves.  It is a true testament to the contractor and their crew that over the course of construction, not one of the existing collection died due to the project construction.

This project has transformed the Edwin and Frances Hunter Arboretum at Palomar College from a diamond in the rough to the crown jewel of the San Marcos campus.

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  • Orchid Nominee

  • Project Address:

    1140 West Mission Rd., San Marcos

    Project Owner/Developer:

    Palomar Community College District

    Owner Contact Name/Email:

    Manager, Construction & Facilities Planning: Dennis Astl /

    Project Architect/Designer:

    Project Landscape Architect: Cheri Blatner of KTUA Planning & Landscape Architecture

    Image Credit:



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