145 Acres in Elfin Forest Near San Diego Are Saved From Development Plan

November 19, 2010

San Diego hills and sage brush

Cielo Azul. Photo by Lily Engle/The Conservation Fund.

Escondido, CA — Thanks to a joint effort between the County of San Diego Parks and Recreation, The Escondido Creek Conservancy (TECC), The Conservation Fund and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District (OMWD), 145 acres of land in Elfin Forest will be permanently protected from the threat of residential development. The land, which provides panoramic views over the Escondido Creek watershed, from the City of Escondido to the Pacific Ocean, is known for extremely high levels of species diversity.

The acquisition includes a 100-acre property, known as Cielo Azul, and a donation by TECC of an adjacent 45-acre parcel along Escondido Creek, valued in excess of $1.2 million, known as Coler. The County of San Diego purchased Cielo Azul in early November from The Conservation Fund, a national land conservation organization that had recently acquired it from the previous owner. The parcel, which is in close proximity to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (EFRR) and includes sections of existing EFRR trails, will initially become part of the County’s Del Dios Highlands Preserve and is slated to be managed by the OMWD pursuant to a cooperative agreement with the County.

The 774-acre Del Dios Highlands Preserve is one of many open space areas in the Escondido Creek, which also includes the 784-acre EFRR and also lands owned by TECC. Together, these preserved lands amass well over 2,000 acres of habitat providing a significant wildlife corridor and public trails.

The newly protected land is located within the California Coastal Sage and Chaparral ecoregion, along the southern coast of California. The area is the last cohesive coastal sage habitat west of Interstate 15 in San Diego County. A number of endangered species make their home in the endangered ecosystem provided by the coastal sage scrub including the California gnatcatcher and the San Diego horned lizard.

In addition, the County of San Diego is in the process of acquiring a 7-acre parcel valued at $165,000 near Escondido Creek, known as the Reden property. It is anticipated that escrow will close on this property before the end of 2010. OMWD will also benefit from $100,000 in stewardship funds provided by San Diego County Department of Parks & Recreation to improve access from the EFRR to the Cielo Azul parcel.

“We want to thank all of our partners in this transaction, especially the County for appreciating the unique value of open space in our area and The Conservation Fund for their diligent work getting this deal done,” said Steve Barker, President of TECC. “This acquisition is exciting because it preserves the integrity of the Reserve and assures that we won’t see homes built on the popular Way Up Trail. We at TECC were happy that our donation of 45 acres of creek-side property helped make this acquisition possible.”

“The partnership of The Conservation Fund and the County of San Diego for this 100-acre land purchase is another example of how the county and local community can work together to preserve open space for the enjoyment of future generations,” said Vice Chairman and Fifth District Supervisor, Bill Horn. “Responsible conservation is using our natural resources in the best way for the most people and this is what has been done in the unincorporated area of Escondido Creek.”

“The Conservation Fund in partnership with the County of San Diego and The Escondido Creek Conservancy, is very pleased to have played a role in the preservation of this important addition to this beloved and well utilized wilderness park,” said Scott Ferguson, director of southern California programs for The Conservation Fund.

OMWD Board Director, Jerry Varty stated: “This collaborative effort serves as another great example through which public-private partnerships can benefit the community. This partnership enhanced OMWD’s ability to offer unique recreational, educational, and environmental experiences at no cost to our ratepayers.”


About the Elfin Forest Recreation Reserve

The EFRR is an open space park and recreational area that was developed by OMWD in partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority and the US Department of the Interior-Bureau of Land Management. Park rangers conduct guided group tours and student exploration programs to help promote environmental awareness and preservation of local watersheds. All wildlife and natural resources at the EFRR are fully protected so that future generations may enjoy these wonders. For more information or to arrange a ranger-led tour of the EFRR, call 760-632-4212.

About the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation

County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation maintains and enhances the quality of life in San Diego County by providing parks and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. Our award-winning system includes local and regional parks, campgrounds, 300 miles of trails, fishing lakes, state-of-the-art recreation centers and sports complexes, ecological preserves, and open space preserves. We offer hundreds of programs, ranging from an award-winning Outdoor Adventure Program to cutting edge activities that contribute to healthy communities and lifestyles. Our facilities cover more than 44,000 acres, are open year round, and are operated and maintained by County staff, volunteers, and service contracts.

About The Escondido Creek Conservancy

TECC is a local land conservancy which is dedicated to the preservation, enhancement and protection of the natural open space within the Escondido Creek Watershed. Since 1991 TECC has preserved hundreds of acres of open space through direct purchase or by working in partnership with its members, donors, landowners, government agencies and community groups. For more information visit www.escondidocreek.org.

About Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Olivenhain Municipal Water District is a public agency providing water, wastewater services, recycled water, hydroelectricity and operation of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. Organized in 1959, OMWD has been serving water to its customers since 1961. OMWD currently includes over 48 square miles, and serves a population of approximately 68,000 residents. OMWD includes portions of the cities of Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Diego, Solana Beach, and San Marcos, as well as the communities of Olivenhain, Leucadia, Elfin Forest, Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks Ranch, Santa Fe Valley and 4S Ranch.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

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