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Wednesday, March 16, 2005 | The role of hosting is imbedded in life for all of us who live in San Diego. It carries a luxury tax we pay to brag on our region. It is important today for two young teenagers from Austin, Texas, for whom this week’s spring break means respite from a broken family to the relative calm of caring aunts and uncle, and what they know only as a sunny land of theme parks.

I have taken custody of Blakely and Matthew for Wednesday, and the three of us are briefing each other extensively on the Wild Animal Park.

We will see the stately stars of Lion Camp, of course, and all the wild glory that now lies beyond in the San Pasqual hillsides. In 1957, Charles Schroeder, the most determined of all zoo directors, walked over these hills, basked in the North County climate, and was reminded of Kenya. Why not a Kenya in San Diego?

Schroeder undertook the boldest gamble in the history of the world’s most famous zoo. He saw ahead to the evolution of zoos away from caged animals toward the 21st century goal of reproductive conservation of species. He waged holy war with Zoo trustees for months before winning their approval.

He teamed with Tom Fletcher, a devoted San Diego city manager. Fletcher was as foresighted as Schroeder: Fletcher wanted to annex the San Pasqual watershed to the city; Schroeder wanted the land above for a wild animal park. In 1970, San Diegans approved a $6 million bond issue by a 76 percent vote.

It’s better for our moods, during this period of political irresponsibility at City Hall, to remember when great men and women helped build a great city because it was the right thing to do, never hesitating over the votes or the favors it might bring or lose.

That’s the little parable I’ll be trying to tell my niece and nephew today on the road to San Pasqual.

I am the first reporter to have marred Voice of San Diego with an error, and hasten to correct it: James Whitesell, a UCSD professor of chemistry and an ecologist, is a totally engaged critic of eucalyptus trees, including the 2,000 or so on the UCSD campus. But, as 14 loyal readers chided, I sounded like a fourth-grader when I referred to the trees’ carbon dioxide emissions:

“It is the emission of hydrocarbons,” Professor Whitesell writes, “which directly contribute to smog. Indeed, it is these hydrocarbons we smell when near eucalyptus trees … one estimate puts plants as responsible for 90 percent of volatile hydrocarbon emissions … We should not be regulating emissions of hydrocarbons from man’s activities while simultaneously allowing or even encouraging the cultivation of vegetation which also contributes to lower air quality and global warming.”

There must be many gardeners and nature-lovers among you here on Voice. When I asked in Monday’s column for the name of a camellia, the first of many helpful e-mails came in from W. R. Dick with a time-stamp of 5:56 a.m. He had referred to a 1987 edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book: “It’s ‘Guilio Nuccio,’ M. Coral rose, very large … unusual depth and substance. This variety is considered by many to be the world’s finest camellia.” (Thanks also to Joanne Pastula, president of Junior Achievement, and nine other Voice readers who followed.)

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