Feature: Who is Betty Meltzer?
Hundreds of drivers pass a sign on El Camino Real everyday that reads, “Betty Meltzer Memorial Highway;” it is reasonable to assume that many wonder who this woman is and what she has done to deserve a highway in her name. Meltzer was a local environmental hero, dedicated to the betterment of Menlo Park and Palo Alto, most notably through her cofounding of the “Dream of a Thousand Trees” project, which provided for the planting of trees in the medians along the highway.
Meltzer was a Palo Alto resident growing up, attended Palo Alto high school, and eventually earned her master’s degree in education at Stanford University in 1961. She then, in 1987, graduated in the first class of the “Leadership Palo Alto” program designed to train both citizens and government people on how to contribute to local civic betterment.
Meltzer engulfed herself in environmental efforts; she was a member of the Palo Alto Garden Club and she served on the board of the former Peninsula Conservation Center Foundation (PCCF), now Acterra. Meltzer was also a key player in the establishment of the Business Environmental Network—an organization that gave awards to environmentally outstanding businesses.
Meltzer, however, is best known for cofounding the “Dream of a Thousand Trees” project, which ensured the planting of hundreds of new trees along the 4.3 mile stretch of El Camino Real that runs through Palo Alto. Aside from finding the funds to do this, Meltzer also had to work with the Department of Transportation to relax its regulations on the planting of trees in road medians. She was steadfast in her determination to beautify the city of Palo Alto.
Meltzer died at age 69 on September 29, 2008, after battling cancer for six years. In honor of her tireless efforts in environmentally enhancing the city of Palo Alto, most notably turning a barren El Camino Real into a lush tree-lined boulevard, Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 30 designates the portion of the highway between Page Mill Road and San Francisquito Creek as Betty Meltzer Memorial Highway.
Next time you drive down this portion of El Camino Real, notice the foliage planted in the medians alongside that road, mind the dedication of this segment of the highway, and remember: much of that can be attributed to the efforts of Betty Meltzer.