Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Santa Margarita Trails Possible Public Access Closure (Guest Post)

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One of our readers brought to our attention an issue of possible public access closure to the Santa Margarita Hiking Trails in Northern San Diego County.  Ashley and I recognize there is a balance between preservation of lands and public access to lands.  But I would argue that public access helps preserve natural lands for future generations because, in my experience, when people interact with nature and what it offers, they tend to want to preserve it.  We would encourage our readers in the area to educate themselves on this issue and to get involved if they so desire.  Thank you to reader, Allison Gower, for taking the time to write the following post:


Popular Trails in San Diego Under Threat Of Closure To The Public

The Santa Margarita River Valley trail system is an awe-inspiring 221 acre preserve that has been maintained for over 20 years, with public access to the hiking trails. However, the preserve is currently scheduled to be sold by the Fallbrook Trails Council. Local residents saw a potential threat to public use of these trails and decided to take action to preserve public access, especially considering the Santa Margarita Trails were voted the #1 best trails in all of San Diego County last
year!

A Little History on the Area: The preserve was acquired in 1992, as part of the County of San Diego's Multiple Species Conservation Program, to preserve the area’s natural habitat and scenery. After the 2002 Gavilan Fire, the preserve was quickly restored for public access and use. Currently, the public has access to the beautiful trails in the preserve (from 8 a.m. to 30 minutes before sunset each day, when the park is open) for all sorts of outdoor activities, such as horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and walking. You can stroll by the rushing river in the preserve, watch the birds and even spot larger animals, like deer, drinking from the river.

About The Controversy: This land is currently owned by the Fallbrook Public Utilities District (FPUD) and is in the process of being sold. General manager Brian Brady of the FPUD announced that FPUD was selling the property to the Western Rivers Conservancy, in an effort to preserve the land for the long-term. This Conservancy would contribute $5.5 million along with a $5 million contribution by Marine Base Camp Pendleton to make the preserve into a permanent conservation easement.

This deal is still in the process of going through. However, as of yet, there’s no specific legal easement on the deed that ensures non-motorized public trail use, such as hiking or horseback riding, throughout the river valley property. Local citizens want to show their support for the preservation of the trails and for having this floating easement to allow continued public access to the preserve. The picture below is a trail map of the preserve.


Easy Way To Help: Local residents started a petition on iPetitions.com, to allow individuals to voice their support for continued public access to the preserve. The petition already has 1,400+ signatures and can be found at:


To show support for the continued public use and maintenance of this long-standing San Diego trail, it takes 30 seconds to sign the petition. You can also show support by reaching out to the FPUD. They have a board meeting each month, where members of the public are invited to come and voice their opinions. The next FPUD (water district) board meeting is on March 22nd at 4 PM at their headquarters: 990 E Mission Rd Fallbrook CA 92028, where they’ll be making more decisions on this topic.

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Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.