Barbara Eisenstein Chosen for 2017 Image Award

By Sally Kilby Review Contributor

Barbara Eisenstein is the recipient of South Pasadena’s 2017 Image Award.   

She is being recognized for outstanding efforts to support the four-acre South Pasadena Arroyo Seco Woodland and Wildlife Park. The area now known as the Nature Park opened in 2004 on Pasadena Avenue at the city’s western edge.

To help this special urban woodland habitat survive, she founded the Friends of the South Pasadena Nature Park in 2006.

Richard D. Schneider, M.D., as newly elected city mayor, has the privilege of giving the award to an individual or organization that has enhanced South Pasadena’s image outside its borders.

Mayor Schneider will present it during the Crunch Time party. This is an annual fundraising event for the city’s Tournament of Roses parade float. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. tonight at the War Memorial Building.

Schneider explained why he chose her for the award. “Barbara Eisenstein has looked after the Nature Park for years,” he wrote in an email, “and continues to improve it.”

“She leads the Friends of the Nature Park,” Schneider continued, “and has held monthly cleanups and yearly plantings.”

“She has engaged several groups, like the Girl and Boy Scouts, Occidental College students and local businesses like Bank of America,” he added.

Barbara Eisenstein

Eisenstein said of the honor, “I was surprised and honored to be selected for this award.”

Eisenstein was described as a native plant gardener, horticulturalist, speaker, writer and blogger in a 2015 announcement for an Arbor Day nature walk she led. Although her expertise comes primarily from her own efforts to educate herself after moving to California from New Jersey in 1996, her background is in science education.

She once served on the city’s Natural Resources Commission. She is a member of the San Gabriel Mountains chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

From 2004 to 2009, she served as a research associate and horticultural outreach coordinator at the Claremont-based Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. 

She testified before City Council on a proposal to extend the city golf course’s driving range in 2011. For this, she prepared an extensive report of its potentially adverse impact on the adjacent Nature Park.

In 2016, the City Council presented her with a Certificate of Appreciation for her efforts to establish a butterfly waystation at the Nature Park.

Eisenstein authored “Wild Suburbia” in 2016. This is a guide of more than 200 pages for California residents. According to the book jacket, it “guides you through the process of transforming your lawn into a peaceful habitat garden abounding with native plants.”

She has already done this with her own Monterey Road home. When she began, as she explained in her guide, no such books existed.

Further enhancing the image of the city, Eisenstein has written extensively about her experience with the Nature Park. She blogs at

In 2009, she published an article about the park’s community stewardship program in “Fremontia,” a journal of the California Native Plant Society. An upcoming article in “Pacific Horticulture” magazine will provide an update of her experience.

She has also made numerous presentations on native-plant gardening. She conducts tours of the Nature Park, as well.

Maintaining the Nature Park, however, has proven extremely frustrating at times. It was once a degraded, weedy lot, she said in her book. At a November City Council meeting, she expressed concerns about persistent threats to it—namely graffiti and homeless encampments.

“I have considered shutting down the Friends of the Nature Park if these problems do not get addressed,” she said.

The city responded to her major concerns following the meeting, she said.

Eisenstein said that overall, the Park “has turned a corner.” This is due to her group’s having monthly Saturday sessions for volunteers to weed, plant, complete extensive landscaping projects and evaluate the park’s condition.

She also now has a core group of regular volunteers, including some staff from the Bank of America. She holds a regular Wednesday Women Who Weed session.

Eisenstein is happy about what has been accomplished by the Friends group. Her goal for the Nature Park, as she said in an email, “is to nurture new native plantings so that over time there are fewer weeds and the land can gradually heal.”

About the Image Award, she said, “In this community of doers and givers,” it was especially humbling to be recognized for my work in the Nature Park.”