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Torii gate garden restoration completed at Santa Barbara's Shoreline Park

Torii Gate Garden Restoration.jpg
Staff and volunteers help plant new Blue Atlas Cedar.jpg
Posted at 11:22 AM, Mar 26, 2023

City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation staff say they have completed work on the Shoreline Park's torii gate garden restoration project.

The donation-funded project was a collaboration between the Parks and Recreation Department and local organizations according to a press release.

In 1998, a traditional torii gate and Japanese garden were installed in Shoreline Park to honor Santa Barbara’s sister city, Toba, Japan. While the torii gate marking the entrance to the Shoreline Steps remained a notable feature of the park, much of the garden was lost over the years due to increased canopy cover from overhead eucalyptus trees and water restrictions from the ongoing drought.

Local groups Our Neighborhood Mesa Inc., and the Toba Sister City Organization, alongside one of the project’s original designers, Wade Nomura, approached the Parks and Recreation Department to return elements of the garden’s original design and return a cultural space to Shoreline Park.

Our Neighborhood Mesa Inc., led a campaign to raise $5,000 for the project, and Parks Division staff performed the work. Neighborhood volunteers helped with the final planting of the garden.

The project included regrading areas where elevation changed over time, relocating the irrigation system, addressing soil compaction, relocating boulders, and installing landscaping better suited for the shady, low-water conditions.

The Japanese design of the restored garden is intended to represent earth, water, and life. The boulders are set in specific ways to represent the earth and its mountains, with tall peaks and those eroded by water and time. Their arrangement creates valleys and channels, while the pebbles represent a dry stream or pond. Life is represented by the variety of plants included in the design, including a new Blue Atlas Cedar bonsai.

Temporary landscape fencing will remain around the garden while the plants establish. Community members interested in assisting with the ongoing care of the garden are invited to contact Our Neighborhood Mesa Inc., at or call (805) 586-0606.

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