During the fall of 1970, Dr David Walkington and Dr. Eugene Jones, along with other faculty members and a group of students at Orange State College, which is now Cal State Fullerton, began to discuss the idea of an arboretum to be developed on a parcel of land at the northern end of the campus. The area was a field of wild mustard and there was little hope in saving the trees that were in the area. Over time, a group of faculty wives, led by Teri Jones, pitched in to help find community support for future development of the acreage. A group called the Arboretum Committee was formed and to everyones delight and surprise won a Disneyland Community Service Award for its environmental effort. In 1971, the Associated Students of Cal State College began a drive to raise funds for the future project.
Drs. Franz Dolp and Jones of the faculty began an attempt to salvage some of the citrus trees, but the effort was more successful in getting student and community support that it was in saving the doomed trees. The student and faculty group then planned to use an area of the land for organic gardening plots to demonstrate the environmental values of organic gardening. In the winter ,a tree cutting time was set and the dead trees were cut down and roots removed. The wood was sold for firewood and later used for surfacing of paths in the area.
After substantial lobbying by interested citizens, the California State University Trustees considered setting aside land for a future botanical garden, which was the first of its kind on university land in the state. This was followed by the formation of an Arboretum Society, which began a series of fund-raising activities on campus to build a fund for the future botanical garden.
At this same time, a group of citizens, that was also led by faculty wives and other interested local women, located an historic house in Fullerton, which was slated to be moved or destroyed. The house was moved on to the property and is called Heritage House.
The Arboretum Society asked for assistance from the City of Fullerton to further the idea of the Fullerton Arboretum. This was the first serious effort to receive official community support for the project.
In January of 1972, the Trustees of the California State University system gave approval to the planning of a botanical garden at CSUF and a month later set aside the twenty six acres for the project.
Originally, planning for the project was passed to students and faculty at sister CSU campus, Cal Poly, Pomona, where landscape design and related fields were part of the curriculum. Among early plans for the land use was an amphitheater to be used by the performing arts students of the college, but as time passed interest in this aspect declined as on-campus facilities were approved.
In the early part of 1972, a community group called the Friends of the Fullerton Arboretum was formed as an outgrowth of the Arboretum Society to pursue the goals of development. In due course, the Friends organization was chartered as a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation and granted a license to raise funds for the future development of the Arboretum.