Category Archives: Elfin Forest

Introducing the Keithley Preserve, near Elfin Forest

Introducing The Keithley Preserve

The Escondido Creek Conservancy Honors a Conservation Legacy

Escondido, CA—The Escondido Creek Conservancy has renamed its 906-acre Los Cielos Preserve in honor of one of their dedicated board members, Elizabeth Keithley (Betsy). The Keithley Preserve, located in the Elfin Forest area, will now serve as a dedication to the conservation legacy that Betsy has created through her advocacy efforts.

“Betsy has been a force at the Conservancy.  She brought a lifelong passion for the outdoors, protecting open space and habitats to her work.  The Keithley Preserve would not have been possible without foresight and action to protect neighboring properties,” shared Richard Murphy, Board President.

Betsy began her involvement with the Conservancy shortly after its founding in 1991, and has been an active board member for the last decade. Having grown up during a time when housing developments were being built in the same open spaces she played in as a child, she quickly realized the value of conservation. The Conservancy’s education programs, that now serve nearly 5,000 students annually, are especially important to her as she’s noticed children don’t have the same access or exposure to nature she had growing up. She hopes that their continued exposure to nature will inspire young people to continue the legacy of conservation for generations to come.

“I believe that human beings are part of the ecosystem, and therefore, dependent on all the other life forms among which we live and interact. These species require natural habitats and humans must preserve them,” said Betsy, “I am grateful that now I have the opportunity to conserve open space for people and animals to enjoy and live in.”

Her deep knowledge of conservation principles, history in the Elfin Forest community, and heart are all things the Conservancy has grown to cherish. Betsy has a big vision and a willingness to take bold risks, and, as a result, the Conservancy was able to create the Keithley Preserve, the Harmony Heights Preserve, and a strong and dynamic outdoor education program. Her conservation legacy in the Escondido Creek watershed will live on in perpetuity.

“The Keithley Preserve is home to a number of diverse ecosystems including oak woodlands, chaparral, riparian, and coastal sage scrub which provides habitat for the federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher,” says Hannah Walchak, the Conservancy’s Conservation Director, “it’s a jewel of the Elfin Forest area, and only natural we’d rename this after one of our most beloved supporters.”

For more information, please visit www.themissinglynx.org.

Escondido Creek Conservancy Receives NOAA Grant For Environmental Education and Stewardship

Funds to support 3rd-grade students in the Escondido Union School District awarded to The Escondido Creek Conservancy

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has been awarded a national grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Planet Stewards Education Project to fund environmental education and stewardship in Escondido. The program will support 3rd-grade students in the Escondido Union School District (EUSD) as they work to address the problem of litter in their community, in conjunction with their learning about local habitats and the impacts of humans on the environment.

The Conservancy’s Education Manager, Jennifer Imm shared, “As a small organization, we are very honored to receive this national grant, and we are grateful to NOAA for supporting the important work we do to educate Escondido’s youth about their local environment.”

The $3,600 grant will be used to encourage community and civic engagement through environmental action. NOAA decided to award more funding than the Conservancy initially proposed due to the strength of the proposal and the importance of the project. After learning how litter in Escondido ends up in sensitive habitats and why it is a problem, students will pick up litter around their community, preventing it from ending up in the Escondido Creek and the ocean. Students will also record the types of litter they find, using NOAA’s Marine Debris Tracker application, contributing to a citizen science dataset. Students will then engage the local community in their work by creating educational posters and videos, and even discussing possible solutions to the problem of litter in Escondido with local city government representatives.

“This grant enables us to expand our efforts to cultivate stewardship and civic engagement among youth. Empowering children to protect the environment for the benefit of their community, wildlife, and the planet we all share is a key goal for us.” said Simon Breen, Education Director.

Although many students won’t be able to participate in traditional field trips this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Conservancy is committed to ensuring that students still have access to high-quality environmental education programming. You can find out more about the NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project here.

Green Jobs To Stimulate Local Economy-The Escondido Creek Conservancy Provides Jobs through Conservation.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) is helping put people back to work through jobs in conservation. As a result of winning numerous highly competitive grants, over the next few months, the Conservancy will be hiring various contractors—from restoration specialists to computer animation designers—to help with conservation projects throughout the Escondido Creek watershed in Northern San Diego County.

“Conservation jobs can help heal the environment and also help the struggling economy, “ said Richard Murphy, president of the Conservancy. “We are pleased to help people get back to work.”

A 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Conservancy has been successful in competing for grant funds set aside for state and federal conservation projects. When shut-downs from the pandemic were first announced, the Conservancy had just been awarded a $552,097 grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that promised more conservation jobs for Escondido. The grant-funded work will help reduce the risk of fire by transforming non-native, flammable landscapes into native habitat.

“Since there’s enough room to maintain social distancing while performing restoration work, we haven’t had to slow down progress, in fact, we are ramping up efforts this year,” said Juan Troncoso, Conservation Associate for the Conservancy.

In 2019, the Conservancy provided $327,000 to support crews from the San Diego Urban Corps, Habitat West, California Tree Services, and the California Conservation Corps, which performed non-native invasive species removal on Conservancy preserves and nearby private properties. Part of that money came from a $380,873 grant from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife that will support the restoration of Reidy Creek through 2021. The Conservancy also hired independent contractors to conduct biological surveys, cultural surveys, and baseline monitoring on Conservancy projects. In 2020, the Conservancy will begin work on a restoration buffer at the Mountain Meadow Preserve, continue restoration work at Reidy Creek, and begin invasive species removal in the Harmony Grove and Elfin Forest areas, all with the support of private companies employing local workers. Additionally, the Conservancy is hiring a computer animation team to help conceptualize an ambitious project to create a “park within a park” in Grape Day Park along Escondido Creek, funded by a grant the Conservancy won from the California Department of Water Resources.

The Conservancy has been able to win competitive grants and turn those wins into real jobs that, in turn, help support other jobs within the local economy. By doing so, the Conservancy has stayed strong in its mission of creating natural, viable ecosystems that support vibrant urban communities.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy Fire Prevention Project Awarded Funding

Fire Prevention Project Awarded Funding

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has won a grant for $552,097 to reduce weeds and prevent fires in the heart of the Escondido Creek watershed. The funding was awarded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant Program and was the only implementation grant funded south of Ventura County. The work is set to begin this fall along Escondido Creek between Harmony Grove and Olivenhain.

“Dry, invasive weeds create a tinderbox throughout our open spaces and surrounding communities. We are grateful for The Escondido Creek Conservancy’s support in helping reduce the threat of fire,” said Fred Cox, Fire Chief for the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District

One of the greatest threats to California’s unique native landscapes is infestation from non-native invasive plants, often referred to as weeds. These weeds, such as highly flammable non-native grasses, put our neighborhoods and wild areas at risk of devastation due to catastrophic wildfires. The funding from this grant will support fire prevention as part of a watershed-wide invasive plant management strategy. The Conservancy will hire arborists and restoration contractors, including youth from the San Diego Urban Corps, putting people to work in these difficult economic times.

“We love helping our wildlife in the Escondido Creek watershed, but it’s wonderful to be part of a project that also protects people—in this case it’s from the risk of wildfire,” added Hannah Walchak, Conservation Land Manager for the Conservancy.

In addition to reducing risk of wildfire, we’re also restoring San Diego County’s renowned biodiversity. The combination of great biodiversity with a large and growing human population results in San Diego County having among the largest numbers of rare and endangered species (San Diego County Mammal Atlas, 2017). With more than 95% of our region’s riparian habitat lost, it is critical to celebrate functioning patches of precious oak riparian woodlands, reduce wildfire risk, and provide safe access for residents to enjoy these special places that were once common (Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, 2001).

Vicki Lake, Program Manager, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grant Programs, stated, “Controlling invasive plants and reducing fuel loads in riparian areas is critical to making our watersheds more resilient. The investments we make today in the work being done by our grantees like The Escondido Creek Conservancy will ensure that habitat for native plants, fish and wildlife continue to be a part of California’s future,”

The project area spans an approximately 8-mile stretch of the Escondido Creek, from Harmony Grove to Olivenhain. The project aims to treat at least 70 acres of public and private lands along Escondido Creek, including three Conservancy-owned Preserves and about 3,000 linear feet of creek frontage on at least four private neighboring sites that border and intercede conserved lands.

A Stargazer Fundraiser

A Stargazer Fundraiser

Escondido, CA – The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) is opening the gates of its Mountain Meadow Preserve (MMP) for their first-ever Stargazing Fundraiser event. Gather under the starlight on January 24th, at 6:00 pm for hot cocoa as representatives from the San Diego Astronomy Association lead a tour of the galaxy. All funds raised will support the Eichen Education Fund, which supports the Conservancy’s expansive education programs that bring nature to over 10,000 annually.

The first new moon of the year promises a beautiful view of the expansive night sky, as does the ridgetop of MMP, which is an ideal location to avoid light pollution. MMP is owned by the Conservancy and San Diego County Parks and Recreation and is normally closed to the public. However, the Conservancy-owned portion of the Preserve will be open for this event. In the case of an overcast sky, a backup date will be announced. Tickets for this fundraiser cost $100 and are available online at  starparty.eventbrite.com. Children are free when accompanied by an adult with a ticket.

And if you just can’t get enough astronomy, you can join the Conservancy for a free talk titled, “Planetary Atmospheres and Climate Change”, at the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center on Thursday, January 23rd, from 6:00-7:00 pm. Join our speaker, Dr. Lisa Will, for a deeper look into the stars, and what they can teach us about the greenhouse effect, climate change in planetary atmospheres, and other natural processes on Earth. Will is the Resident Astronomer for the Fleet Science Center and Professor of Astronomy and Physics at San Diego City College. If you’re interested in participating in this fundraiser or other conservation efforts, please email Nathan Serrato, nathan@escondidocreek.org.

Patagonia Awards $8,000 to The Escondido Creek Conservancy

Patagonia Awards $8,000 to The Escondido Creek Conservancy

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) was awarded $8,000 from Patagonia to help with the restoration of the 693-acre Mountain Meadow Preserve (Preserve). The Preserve was acquired in 2018 as part of the Conservancy’s Save 1000 Acres campaign and is owned by San Diego County Parks & Recreation and the Conservancy, but managed by the Conservancy. Patagonia funded, Growing the Future, a volunteer-powered native seed collecting, processing, and storing operation to initiate restoration on degraded agricultural lands at the Preserve.

The Conservancy is truly grateful for businesses like Patagonia that recognize their impact on the environment and make it part of their mission to give back. “For us, it’s not charity or traditional philanthropy. It’s part of the cost of doing business. We call it our Earth Tax,” reads Patagonia’s Environmental + Social Initiatives. Their Earth Tax is now funding restoration in the Escondido Creek watershed with the Growing the Future project, which will catalyze the Conservancy’s largest-ever habitat restoration project.

What makes this initiative special is that, in addition to restoring critical, precious coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitat, it will give the Conservancy the chance to engage a more diverse range of volunteers. “Restoration can be hard work that isn’t always generally accessible to everyone, but community members of all physical and mental capabilities will be invited to participate in this rewarding method of conservation,” says Hannah Walchak, the Conservancy’s Conservation Land Manager. Volunteers will be inspired to commit to nature–and each other–because the project will show tangible results, enhance participant skillsets, and foster group experiences.

For those interested in becoming a volunteer for the project, please visit escondidocreek.org/volunteer.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy to Connect “The Missing Lynx” for Wildlife Conservation

The Escondido Creek Conservancy has launched “The Missing Lynx” campaign to establish permanently protected wildlife corridors in North San Diego County. After successfully acquiring 975 acres as part of their “Save 1000 Acres” campaign, the Conservancy has shifted its focus to connecting the missing links, so wildlife can move freely between preserved areas, and protecting those linkages in perpetuity.

“Between climate change, pollution, and human expansion into wild areas, native plants, and wildlife around the world are struggling to survive,” says Executive Director, Ann Van Leer, “We want San Diego County to retain the natural beauty that has drawn humans here for centuries, but to do so, we must be dedicated to connecting the missing links between preserved lands.”

Connecting wildlands is crucial for wildlife, especially large mammals like mule deer (Odocoileus heminus) and mountain lions (Puma concolor), which typically have home ranges of more than 100 square miles. Successful wildlife corridors provide access to food and other resources, while also improving genetic variation. Connecting breeding populations of a species increases their ability to adapt to their changing environment, which is especially important as we begin to witness the effects of climate change.

“We manage preserves on either side of the I-15,” says Hannah Walchak, the Conservancy’s Land Conservation Manager, “It’s crazy to think that I can easily drive between these preserves, while the unique populations of mountain lions on each side are unlikely to meet because of a lack of connectivity.”

Since 1991, The Escondido Creek Conservancy has helped preserve over 7,000 acres in North San Diego County. Over the last three years, with the creation of the Mountain Meadow Preserve and the George Sardina, MD Preserve, the “Save 1000 Acres” campaign protected an additional 975 acres. While these are important cornerstone properties, “The Missing Lynx” campaign will prioritize land acquisitions in areas that are contiguous to other preserved lands in the Escondido Creek watershed.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy is seeking public support to protect and preserve these “missing lynx” to reduce conflicts with human activities, help North San Diego County retain its wild character, and give our native species a chance to live, and live wild. For more information about the campaign, see www.missinglynx.org.

Zooming In On Nature -The Elfin Forest Interpretive Center

Zooming In On Nature

Escondido, CA – Textures, colors, patterns, and microscopic organisms come alive as The Escondido Creek Conservancy was awarded $1,500 for a new microscope by the San Marcos Community Foundation. As a result of the grant, visitors to the Interpretive Center at the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve will now have a clearer view on the microscopic world.

The Elfin Forest Interpretive Center provides visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the local habitats, plants, and animals of the reserve. One of the most popular stations within the Center is a stereo microscope attached to a television screen that visitors can use to take a close-up look at some of the creek’s tiniest inhabitants—aquatic macroinvertebrates. The microscope allows visitors to see a part of the local ecosystem that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to see. The microscope is also used on field trips, so thousands of students and adults each year will now have an enhanced experience at the Center.

The Interpretive Center is open during volunteer availability. Please visit elfinforest.olivenhain.com for hours of operation. You can also help support our education programs by donating to the Eichen Education Fund. Visit escondidocreek.org/eichenedfund for more information.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Nathan Serrato | Marketing and Volunteer Manager
(760) 703-3393
nathan@escondidocreek.org

Commentary Why San Diego can’t afford to build in high-risk fire areas – The San Diego Union-Tribune

We are facing a moment of truth in San Diego County. The recent fires in Paradise, Thousand Oaks and Malibu are a stark reminder that California is increasingly a fire-prone state and that some parts of San Diego County are at extreme risk. Because of this high fire risk, the county’s general plan discourages high-density development in the canyons and chaparral-covered hillsides of the unincorporated county. The county spent 13 years and more than $18 million creating this plan which directs where housing

READ MORE VIA Source: Why San Diego can’t afford to build in high-risk fire areas – The San Diego Union-Tribune 

Theberge is chair of the Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council and the director of Grow the San Diego Way

Giving Back To Nature… and Myself: Elfin Forest Trail Patrol

Next Training on January 19th 9:00am – 12:00pm

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

8833 Harmony Grove Rd

Escondido, CA 92029

Start the new year off with a commitment to give back to mother nature and spend more time outdoors. The Olivenhain Municipal Water District and The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) are recruiting volunteers for their next Trail Patrol Training on January 19th. Trail Patrol volunteers sign up for monthly hikes at the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (EFRR) and the Conservancy’s neighboring preserves to help maintain trails and protect the natural open spaces we love.

“One of my favorite parts of serving on the Trail Patrol is a bit selfish. I sometimes need the motivation to make time for a good hike, so I look forward to my 3-hours-a-month on the Elfin Forest Trail,” says Cindy Pahl, one of our newest volunteers. “At the same time, I love my role as an ‘ambassador’ for Elfin Forest, which feels less selfish and more giving,” Pahl continued. Volunteers get to explore the beautiful, serene trails while assisting visitors and submitting reports to our rangers and land managers.

“When a trail issue is reported by a trail patrol volunteer, rangers quickly respond with action.  This results in greater trail sustainability and a safer recreation experience for our visitors,” says EFRR Park Supervisor, Jeff Anderson. EFRR provides an outdoor recreation area for 150,000 visitors a year. EFRR park rangers and Conservancy land managers heavily rely on trail patrol volunteers to be the eyes and ears for the Reserve and report their observations while on patrol. “Our volunteers help us track where invasive plant infestations need to be addressed, whether preserves are receiving inappropriate human use like fishing, pointing out trails that need repair, and making note of rare or amazing wildlife phenomena!,” says Conservation Land Manager, Hannah Walchak, who helps manage about 2,500 acres of land in the Escondido Creek watershed.

Whether you’re patrolling on foot, mountain bike, or horseback, there is a place on the team for you. Plus, there are many trail options for various mobility levels. And you don’t need to be a wildlife expert to join! We’ll tell you everything you need to know and provide you with your own uniform you can wear as you’re out exploring the trails. Our next training is Saturday, January 19th from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm so don’t wait to sign up! You can register online at https://trailpatrol.eventbrite.com

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