June 3, 2011
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, the San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department and community and wildlife partners on Friday opened a four-mile trail in the Ramona Grasslands Preserve, marking the first time the public has been able to experience the unique County preserve along a trail.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob, County Parks and Recreation Director Brian Albright and Senior Park Ranger Walt Schmidtke open the Ramona Grasslands’ first trail
“The County and its partners have been working for years to acquire land in the preserve to conserve and restore this vanishing habitat,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “Today, the community can finally venture into the Grasslands and experience what makes the area so special.”
The figure-eight loop trail in the southwestern portion of the 3,500-acre preserve winds through a variety of landscapes and ecosystems—grasslands, chaparral and oak woodlands—passing a pond and stopping by a viewpoint with expansive, 360 degree views.
A new parking area for cars and horse trailers at the trailhead also opened Friday.
The Grasslands’ vernal pools and native grasses, now rare in San Diego County, were once common to the region. About 90 percent of Southern California’s grasslands have been lost to development.
The preserve supports the endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rat, San Diego fairy shrimp, and arroyo toad and rare plants such as the southern tarplant, San Diego thornmint and Engelmann oak.
Numerous hawks, eagles and falcons winter in the preserve. The Santa Maria Creek adds to the Grasslands’ biodiversity.
The new trail allows public recreation and aims to enhance the public’s appreciation of the preserve’s value while avoiding biologically-sensitive areas.
“Protecting the Ramona Grasslands has been a substantial effort, and by opening it up for low-impact recreational uses such as this hiking trail, the public can enjoy this special place while still protecting the amazing nature it has to offer for future generations,” said The Nature Conservancy Senior Project Director Chris Basilevac.
Since 2003, when the state’s Water Resources Control Board awarded County Parks and Recreation a grant for the protection of Santa Maria Creek and adjacent habitats, the County has partnered with The Nature Conservancy and others to restore, protect, study and acquire land in the preserve. The ownership and operation of all the preserve’s lands have been transferred to the County.
The new trail is in a 480-acre area of the preserve that was purchased jointly by The Nature Conservancy, which received $10 million in federal funds authorized by the Endangered Species Act, and the County, which contributed $1.6 million.
The establishment of the Ramona Grasslands Preserve was guided by the County’s Multiple Species Conservation Plan, which sets aside land to protect multiple species and habitats while streamlining permits for development in other areas.