More Than Just a Garden


Entrance sign to botanical garden 

Strolling down People’s Park, beginning to feel tried? Just sit down on one of the six benches offered there. Dozens of people do this, but do they know just what they are sitting on? May 23, 2014: a day embedded into UCSB for all to remember for many years to come.

Many spontaneous memorials popped up that day, but were taken away not too long after. A UCSB Alumni, Jordan Killebrew, decided he had to do something for not only the six students lost that day, but for their families and friends as well, “…I need to do something and fortunately for me I have all the resources to do so. This is for IV.This is for the families. This is for my Gauchos.” Killebrew set up a website where anyone could donate money, Project IV Love. Members from the community quickly caught on to what Killebrew was doing,  and many decided they wanted to help out as well.

Businesses such as Woodstock’s Pizza donated a whole day’s worth of proceeds to the Project IV Love website, ranking up to $7,000 in just one day combined with donations. With this, the project was ready to get started.


One of the six benches located in the park

With the help of 4 undergraduate UCSB students, Killebrew came up with the idea of fixing up People’s Park and turning it into a memorial site to help heal the community. Collaboration with Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District manger Rodney Gould was needed to get the plan into action. Together, they came up with six designs they believed best fit the students. The designs were carved into metal and wooden benches. When places together, the benches form a perfect circle.


Three of the benches are placed next to each other while the rest are scattered



The project goes a long way from just being an act of simple kindness or respect. The botanical garden turned out to a bonding experience for the community. The community came together to help one another during a time of need and they proved that they all had each other’s backs. Despite being a tragic occasion, the incident was able to unify a large group of people and appreciate the lives of the six students instead of grieving over them.

The various trees planted in the garden are said to symbolize the existence of the students; as long as the trees are alive and growing, the six students are present, spiritually. “I’m so glad that they opted to do something that would add life and put smiles on people’s faces,” Gould said.

Many of the UCSB students agreed with the creation of the garden because it helped them look at the incident in a different way.

I just want it to be a way for people to remember and not necessarily the tragedy, but remember the beauty of life and the beauty of the people we lost and how they touched each and every one of us,” said UCSB student Kristen Nygaard, when interviewed about the garden. 


View of the garden’s end of trail

A garden made up entirely by the community proved to be much more than just a place to sit down and relax. It not only is a nice sight to see, but it also marks the place where a community came together and created a sanctuary for the people here to join the students we have lost.



(All pictures were taken by the author)