Tag Archives: The Escondido Creek Conservancy

The Escondido Creek Conservancy Earns National Recognition

For sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship

One thing that unites our Nation is land: Americans strongly support saving the wild lands they love. Since 1991, The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has been doing just that in North San Diego County. The Conservancy announced today it has achieved national recognition for its work – joining a network of over 450 accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust.

“We are a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program. Our strength means special places–such as the LeoMar, Keithley, and Sardina preserves–will be protected forever, making the region an even greater place for us and our children,” said Conservancy Director of Finance and Operations Rita Petrekova, who led the multi-year accreditation effort.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive independent third-party evaluation prior to achieving this distinction. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that the Conservancy’s lands will be protected forever. Around the Nation, non-profit accredited land trusts steward almost 20 million acres of land–the size of Denali, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Everglades, and Yosemite National Parks combined.

“Accreditation demonstrates the Conservancy’s commitment and ability to provide permanent land conservation through ethical business practices, good corporate governance, and top-notch long-term stewardship.” said Leonard Wittwer, Conservancy co-founder and current Board President.

“It is exciting to recognize The Escondido Creek Conservancy with this national mark of distinction,” said Melissa Kalvestrand, executive director of the Commission. “Donors and partners can trust the more than 450 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

The Escondido Creek Conservancy is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent National Land Trust Census. A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits can be found at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About The Escondido Creek Conservancy

Over the past three decades, the Conservancy has helped protect over 7,000 acres of wildlife habitat and currently manages 3,000 acres of wildlands in North San Diego County. The Conservancy also annually implements outdoor educational programs to 5,000+/- students and provides compatible outdoor recreation to children and adults, including all third graders in the Escondido Union School District. The Conservancy strongly believes the benefits of outdoor education are numerous and exposing young people to nature enriches their lives and helps them understand why it is so important to protect wild spaces.

Recent Conservancy conservation efforts include the Missing Lynx campaign–a continuation of the Conservancy’s successful 2015-2019 Save 1000 Acres campaign. In 2021, as part of the Missing Lynx effort, the Conservancy created a new preserve in Olivenhain called LeoMar. The recent purchase of 104 acres of land adjacent to the Gaty reservoir is serving as a centerpiece of the new LeoMar Preserve https://escondidocreek.org/leomar-preserve/. The Conservancy is also promoting the Park in the Parkhttps://escondidocreek.org/grape-day-park/ to create new park space for Escondido residents and improve water quality in the creek and ocean. The Conservancy believes all people should have access to nature close to where they live, which is one of the reasons why it is advocating for creek restoration in the City of Escondido.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

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.

“Reidy” For A New Year; A Creek Makeover

“Reidy” For A New Year; A Creek Makeover

Earlier this fall, a long-overdue restoration project began at Reidy Creek! Although the Conservancy is The Escondido Creek Conservancy, its conservation focus is the entire Escondido Creek watershed, which contains additional tributaries (drainages), including Reidy Creek. Escondido residents may know Reidy Creek as the creek that runs behind the Escondido Police Department headquarters, and by the community garden. Enhancing and improving Reidy Creek provides an opportunity to showcase what other creeks in the watershed could become: ribbon parks bisecting the city with beautiful native trees and plants, clean water, and–perhaps in the future–safe walking and biking trails for local residents.

“During the restoration process, we’ve had many residents and neighbors near Reidy Creek—some having lived here over 20 years—expressing gratitude towards the project,” said Juan Troncoso, Conservation Associate for The Escondido Creek Conservancy, “They are grateful for the natural beauty and recreational value we are returning to their backyard.”

The portion of Reidy Creek behind the Escondido Police Department has become an area of public safety concern over the last decade, due to unauthorized encampments and resultant trash and water pollution. In recent years, the City of Escondido has been working to address these issues. Last year the City and CalFire began a program to reduce non-native plants in Reidy Creek and remove trash and hazardous waste, which has greatly improved the area. “We really appreciate all the work The Escondido Creek Conservancy has organized so far. The removal of overgrowth and non-native plant species has really helped open up this waterway and has had a positive effect on our community,” says Justin Frasor, Community Manager of Reidy Creek Apartments.

In September, the Conservancy began a multi-year program to remove hundreds of non-native trees and plants that are choking the creek and taking up space that might otherwise be used by native plants and wildlife. Reidy Creek is an especially important tributary because it remains relatively natural, unlike Escondido Creek—much of which has been lined with concrete within the urban portion of the city. Thanks to funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Watershed Restoration Grant Program, students from the Urban Corps of San Diego county controlled invasive, non-native plants in the understory at Reidy Creek. This involved distinguishing between native and invasive plants, and using multiple methods for control. Corps members will return throughout the spring and in the next two years to continue removing invasive understory plants and emerging palm trees, thereby shifting the plant community back toward a native one.

The Conservancy will also expand its Conservation Fellowship program next summer so high school students living near the creek can participate in the restoration and witness the transformation. Nearby residents will also be able to participate in summer nature walks and bird watching near the creek so that they too can witness the transformation!

If you’re interested in participating in the restoration or learning about the Conservation Fellowship, please email Nathan Serrato, nathan@escondidocreek.org

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.

Escondido Creek Conservancy’s Outdoor Classroom Connects Students With Nature

Escondido Creek Conservancy’s Outdoor Classroom Connects Students With Nature

Imagine a world where every student, in every grade, receives a field trip in nature. In Escondido, we are well on the way to making this dream a reality. Outdoor education has astounding benefits for children, including improving health, mental wellbeing, and academic performance. Last school year, The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) brought all 3rd grade students in the Escondido Union School District out to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve to learn about habitats. Our partners at San Diego Zoo Global and Nature Collective brought all 4th and 5th grade students and half of 6th grade students in the district out into nature as well. This year, the collaboration has expanded to include Friends of Daley Ranch as a partner and serve all 7th grade students in Escondido. 

The Conservancy’s Habitats program involves a series of classroom lessons followed by a field trip to the Elfin Forest. Immersed in nature, students engage in STEM science while learning about local wildlife that live in and around the creek. After the trip, the children write letters to corporations and local government representatives to address the problem of litter in their community and propose solutions.

“Many of the students that come out to Elfin Forest have never been outside the urban center of Escondido,” says the Conservancy’s Education Manager, Jennifer Imm. “These field trips are an opportunity for students to experience the natural world for the first time and learn what they can do to help protect it.” Research has shown that the best way to get students to care about the environment is to let them experience nature—not just once, but multiple times. Through the larger collaboration, students in Escondido will receive at least five different outdoor education experiences and gain the training they need to become stewards of our environment.

You can help instill a passion for nature in Escondido students by volunteering to help with the Conservancy’s field trips, which take place on weekdays from 9:00am to noon. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Education Director, Simon Breen at simon@escondidocreek.org. You can also help 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

Volunteer to Help Preserve North County Land and Provide Outdoor Education!

Volunteer to Help Preserve North County Land and Provide Outdoor Education!

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, CA (August 1, 2019)

Who: The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) is partnering with Olivenhain Municipal Water District (OMWD) to recruit volunteers to help protect Escondido Creek and the Escondido Creek watershed. The Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust. Since 1991, the Conservancy has helped preserve over 4,000 acres of land for wildlife habitat and provides outdoor education to more than 5,000 children and adults annually. OMWD is a public agency providing water, wastewater services, recycled water, hydroelectricity, and the operation of Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (EFRR). The two organizations first partnered in 2009 to build the beautiful Elfin Forest Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty, and have been working together since then on many watershed protection projects and education programs.

What: Join us at our next Volunteer Open House and discover the many ways you can give back and get in touch with local nature. Volunteers can choose to hike and monitor trails, assist with school field trips, staff the interpretive center, perform trail maintenance with park rangers, or work with the Conservancy’s land managers to restore sensitive habitat.

Why: EFRR is almost 800 acres with only three rangers to monitor the land, while the Conservancy manages over 3,000 acres with a small staff of land managers, supplemented by volunteers. Volunteers are crucial in helping protect and restore these fragile open spaces so plants and wildlife can continue to thrive. Our volunteers have also been a vital part of the Conservancy’s education programs which provide outdoor experiences to local elementary and middle-school students.

Our volunteer network is a community of like-minded people who enjoy backyard barbecues, in-service meetings followed by “Conservation Conversations” on a wide variety of topics, and unique tour opportunities throughout the year. Recent tours include an EDCO Recycling Center, a Native American Eco-Village, and the California Wolf Center.

Where: The Volunteer Open House will be held at EFRR’s Interpretive Center, but volunteer opportunities are available throughout various preserves in Escondido. Limited parking will be reserved for those registered, and arriving early is advised.

When: The Volunteer Open House will be held on Saturday, August 10, 2019, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Please visit www.natureiscalling.eventbrite.com for more information or to register.

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