San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy

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Projects | Acquisitions - Conservation - Education - Recreation - Citizen Science

Conservancy Acquisition Projects

The Conservancy frequently partners with organizations and agencies to purchase land within the planned 92,000-acre San Dieguito River Park as it becomes available for purchase. We especially focus on land that is at risk for real estate development. All land purchased by the Conservancy or with its partners is permanent protected open space.

The Conservancy may assist and facilitate purchases by:

  • Initiating or leading negotiations with current landowners
  • Raising funds through public and member donations
  • Securing grant funding from government and environmental agencies
  • Researching potential purchases


• At 1000 feet in elevation, Bernardo Mountain is the most prominent feature west of I-15 on the northern shore of Lake Hodges

• Rich in coastal sage scrub habitat, rare species and cultural resources, the property was already approved for a residential development of more than 50 houses when the Conservancy, and its partners, purchased it

• Bernardo Mountain is being managed as part of the San Dieguito River Park and has a trail to the summit – with panoramic views – that is open for hiking, biking and equestrian use Location & Access

• Prominent undeveloped (without a building, without a light at night) “hill” just east of I-15 on north shore of Lake Hodges between Rancho Bernardo and Escondido

• Entire undeveloped portion of the mountain is in protected ownership – 232 acres purchased by the Conservancy & River Park and the land on the western slope provided as mitigation for an earlier widening of I-5

• Access is from the North Lake Hodges segment of the Coast to Crest Trail

• Trail up Bernardo Mountain can be reached off the Coast to Crest Trail from staging areas at Sikes Adobe east of I-15 off Via Rancho Parkway or eastward from the staging area near the Lake Hodges boat ramp, off Lake Drive

• Major portions of the property are not accessible because they are protected habitat mitigation – but there is an interesting, winding trail segment along the east and north slopes to the top

• There is no pubic access from the residential areas to the north and northwest of the mountain Resource Values

• Prominent scenic feature helping preserve the natural open space nature of Lake Hodges

• One of largest remaining populations of endangered California gnatcatchers; important nesting area for threatened cactus wrens; major patch of coastal sage scrub

• Rare plants on the north slope including a protected – but viewable – rare ceanothus “tunnel”

• Great family trail – for family hiking, biking or horseback riding – with rewarding views from the up-and-back trail to the summit

• Views up-river to Volcan Mountain and west and south across Lake Hodges Conservancy Role

• Conservancy and River Park partnered to purchase the property

• Raised $625,000 from the community – within the 2-month deadline to complete the $4.1 million purchase

• Neighboring communities led the way in supporting the purchase – with strong city-wide support

• City of Escondido assigned a major state grant to the project and The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land provided loans (now paid-off) to pay for the purchase, management and other related work costs

• Managed by River Park staff as part of the San Dieguito River Park

• The sale of mitigation credits on Bernardo Mountain by the Conservancy has generated funds for additional purchases within the River Park

• Work is underway just east of Bernardo mountain for a pedestrian (walking and biking) bridge across Lake Hodges connecting to Piedas Pintadas along West Bernardo Road


• Acquisition of 75-acres just west of Wild Animal Park protects prominent feature in San Pasqual Valley, adjoining Cloverdale Creek

• Property once slated for ridgeline development overlooks – and is visible from – the valley floor

• Conservancy contracted for the appraisal and environmental assessment, and negotiated the purchase

• River Park JPA purchased with State grant funds and will manage property Location & Access

• Crowder property is a major land feature, rising above SR 78 (San Pasqual Road), San Pasqual Valley Road, just east of Cloverdale Creek and west of the Wild Animal Park

• From the west, coming out of Escondido, the property serves as a Gateway to the 11,000 acres of the City of San Diego-owned agricultural preserve in the San Pasqual Valley

• Property does not have a trail system – the value lies in protecting views from the undeveloped valley

Resource Values

• Property adjoins major holdings by the City of San Diego; offering wildlife, recreational and water quality values

• Concentration of rare and sensitive species; high quality site for endangered cactus wren

• Property is prominently visible from major roadways through the San Pasqual Valley and from the Raptor Ridge portion of the Mule Hill/San Pasqual Trail; protects against ridgeline residential development, which is possible under existing zoning

• Adjoins Cloverdale Creek, identified as the top priority for riparian restoration in Lake Hodges/San Pasqual area; serves as upland for this corridor

Conservancy Role

• Conservancy negotiated purchase agreement with the owner

• Conservancy funded and supervised preparation of appraisal and environmental assessment of the property

• Conservancy worked with River Park to obtain the State funding for the purchase Management & Related Work

• Property will be managed by the JPA as part of the River Park

• Views of the undeveloped ridgeline are available from the River Park trail in the San Pasqual Valley and from the eastern segment of trail on Raptor Ridge

• Property can be directly accessed from SR 78, San Pasqual Valley Road, on north side of road – just to the east of Cloverdale Creek

• Property will be included in plans for riparian and upland restoration along Cloverdale Creek

• Conservancy is interested in purchasing two small adjoining parcels to protect open space character of this “Gateway to the San Pasqual Valley”


• The undeveloped lots are east of Jimmy Durante Blvd between San Dieguito Drive and the river channel

• The Conservancy plans to purchase the remaining lots to ensure they remain undeveloped and to restore them as wetlands – their native habitat

• Strategic property – across the river channel from the Lagoon Boardwalk, to the west of the Grand Avenue Bridge Viewing Platform, and a connection between Crest Canyon and Riverpath Del Mar and the Boardwalk segment of the Coast to Crest Trail

• The Conservancy has purchased 4 of the 13 undeveloped lots; five of the remaining lots are owned by the City of Del Mar and one by Southern California Edison

Location & Access

• In northeast Del Mar on the north side of San Dieguito Drive, east of Jimmy Durante Blvd, along the San Dieguito Lagoon

• The property adjoins the Grand Avenue Bridge, which is being converted to a wildlife viewing platform overlooking the restored San Dieguito Lagoon area west of I-5

• From the Lagoon Boardwalk, the property can be accessed by crossing the river on the Jimmy Durante Drive bridge and heading west along San Dieguito Road

• The property adjoins an area previously restored as wetlands, which is now being greatly expanded under the $86 million Lagoon Restoration Project

Resource Values

• Borders river channel and wetlands with extensive birdlife

• Potential for wetlands restoration directly across the river channel from the Conservancy’s North Bank Restoration project

• Long-term protection will enhance the primary purpose of the Lagoon Restoration project – which is to provide viable fish and wildlife habitat to compensate for the losses at the San Onofre Nuclear Plant

• If all the Del Mar parcels can be acquired, they will provide a route for a trail connection between Crest Canyon and Pathway Del Mar on the Coast to Crest Trail

• Restoration of the area will extend the wetlands that have been and are being restored

Conservancy Role

• Conservancy purchased 4 parcels for preservation and wetlands restoration

• Conservancy has offered to purchase the remaining undeveloped parcels from willing sellers and has a plan for funding these purchases

• Conservancy is partnering with the City of Del Mar, which currently owns 5 of the parcels

• Conservancy is working with Caltrans for the purchase of the remaining parcels and for the restoration of the site as wetlands to mitigate for transportation projects

Management & Related Work

• If the area is purchased and restored, the property will be transferred to the River Park, which will manage the Lagoon Restoration area once the project is completed

• After purchases are made, volunteers will be needed to do the wetlands restoration, construct the trail and maintain the area


• The property was added to the River Park in late 2005 after The Conservancy obtained a major state grant and a conducted successful public fundraising campaign to complete the purchase

• The 353-acre property is immediately east of Lake Sutherland and is a critical addition to the River Park; consolidating public ownership – completely surrounding the City of San Diego’s Lake Sutherland Reservoir

• A Segment of 55-mile Coast to Crest Trail will cross the property

• The Lake Sutherland East property is rich in natural and cultural resources with potential for restoring native grasslands

Location & Access

• The 353-acres are immediately east of Lake Sutherland, a City of San Diego Reservoir

• 7-miles northeast of Ramona, north of SR-78, Julian Road

• Lies along a remote natural corridor – within a 49-square-mile area that has no east-west or north-south road crossings

• Its part of a corridor connecting Lake Sutherland with the Santa Ysabel Ranch – more than 1,000-acres recently added to the River Park along this reach

• Until the Coast to Crest Tail is completed around the Sutherland Dam, the property can only be accessed on Conservancy-led hikes

Resource Values

• Lies along the planned corridor for the Coast to Crest Trail

• Is home to a rich matrix of habitats – meadows, oak woodlands, riparian, and southern mixed chaparral

• Supports a wide-range of species including: golden and bald eagles, deer, coyote, bobcat and mountain lion

• Is a segment of a major east-west habitat corridor that runs from Lake Hodges, through San Pasqual Valley, Boden Canyon, Pamo Valley, and Lake Sutherland, to Volcan Mountain – with north/south connections to the Ramona Grasslands, Guejita Ranch, and along the Laguna Range

• Is site to a 1896 homestead, which was a regular stop on the “Julian to Ramona Stagecoach Road” between Julian and Ramona; reportedly the site of a pioneer-era garnet mine

• Mesa Grande Band Indian villages were located in the area, presently Lake Sutherland

• High scenic values which are compatible with recreational trail development

• The property will form a segment of a planned loop trail around Lake Sutherland

• The property burned in the 2007 fires and is expected to restore through natural processes – with the opportunity for native grasses to succeed non-native pasture

Conservancy Role

• The property was purchased by the River Park in late-2005 as part of a team effort with The Conservancy and the national Trust for Public Land

• The Conservancy and the River Park identified and obtained state grant funding to cover part of the purchase price

• The Conservancy raised $350,000 in public contributions to complete the purchase

Management & Related Work

• The Property is managed by the San Dieguito River Park

• The Conservancy and the River Park along with the City of San Diego are working to identify a route for the Coast to Crest Trail that would connect the Lake Sutherland East property, around the Sutherland Dam, with the Upper Santa Ysabel Truck Trail through the Cleveland National Forest heading west

• Substantial clean-up work from previous farm operations remains to be completed. The Conservancy plans to organize volunteer work parties to finish the remaining work to be done.

• Prior to completion of the Coast to Crest Trail, The Conservancy will conduct hikes on the property for members and guests – with access by boat or from The Conservancy-owned Corral Mountain property

• Erosion control improvements such as the construction of a siltation pond need to be made on the property to protect the rinking water reservoir.


• Acquired 27-acre parcel on the western slope of Volcan Mountain, east of Farmer Road, links Santa Ysabel Ranch West with the Volcan Mountain Preserve

• Aquired 95-acre protected parcel connecting Santa Ysabel Ranch West and the County’s Volcan Mountain Preserve

• Provided funding for and assisted in the acquisition of the 420-acre Russell Homestead property Our partners in this purchase were the Volcan Mountain Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and the County of San Diego.

• Properties lie north of Julian on west-facing slope of Volcan Mountain, east and to the west of Farmer Road, north of Wynola Road

• Adjoin the County of San Diego’s Volcan Mountain Preserve and connect with Santa Ysabel Ranch West, purchased by Nature Conservancy, and owned and managed by the County

• Eastern property is a private residence of a River Park staff member

• Conservancy conducts member-only hikes on property west of Farmer Road up to crest of Volcan Mountain

Resource Values

• Volcan Mountain is rich in biological diversity – with a succession of habitat types, mountain lions, bobcat, deer, an abundance of birds, including raptors, and a rare-for-San-Diego four-seasons setting

• Drainage along northern boundary of property east of Farmer Road has stands of black oak – mortar and pottery shards, evidence the area was occupied by Indians probably on a seasonal or stop-over basis

• Properties provide forage and nesting for raptors that are common in the area

Conservancy Role

• Property east of Farmer Road had an offer to purchase for development as estate-type residences. Conservancy matched the offer and purchased the property as permanent open space

• Conservancy partnered with the Volcan Mountain Preserve Foundation to close the deal on the eastern property

• Funding for the property east of Farmer Road came from Conservancy member donations, which were shifted when the Santa Ysabel Ranch was purchased using State funding

• Conservancy initiated negotiation on parcel west of Farmer Road. The property was purchased using State funds in partnership with the River Park JPA, Conservancy and Trust for Public Land

Management & Related Work

• Properties are managed by the San Dieguito River Park

• The long-run plan is to transfer properties to the Volcan Mountain Preserve to consolidate under County management, and to adjoin Santa Ysabel Ranch West and East across SR 79

• Conservancy conducts guided hikes on properties for member

• The priority is to protect, as much as possible, the remaining 1,800-acres in private ownership to the north along the western slopes of Volcan Mountain

Location & Access

• Part of the original 11,000-acre Rutherford Ranch, the Russell Homestead property is located on just a few miles north of Julian on the southwest facing slopes of Volcan Mountain. The planned route for the Coast to Crest Trail runs just south of the property, but at this time, there is no public access.


The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy is very pleased to announce that we successfully completed the purchase of 40 acres in Pamo Valley. This undeveloped property is one of two private inholdings in Pamo Valley and is surrounded by other protected lands. It has been owned by the Hodges family for more than 60 years, and is a great addition to the River Park. It sits just above the Pamo Valley segment of the Coast to Crest Trail currently being planned by the San Dieguito River Park in partnership with the Conservancy.

Benefits of acquiring the property include:

• Providing an incredible viewshed entering Pamo Valley;

• Preserving important undisturbed habitat; and,

• Potential mitigation credits for construction of the Pamo Valley segment of the Coast to Crest Trail.

There is also the possibility that the Conservancy would use the property in the creation of a spur trail that would branch off from the Coast to Crest Trail, gradually gain about 200 feet in elevation, and afford beautiful, panoramic vistas of Pamo Valley. Thank you to everyone who helped us reach our fundraising goal! We could not have done it without you!