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San Diego County Public Access Plan

San Diego County Public Access Plan

This is an Important Open letter from former Ranger Maureen Abare-Laudy


For over thirty years I have been working for and supportive of parks, preserves, open spaces, recreation, customer service, preservation of wildlife, habitats, cultural, historical resources, land management, environmental interpretation, raptor education.  I have a unique, knowledgeable experience, and passionate perspective; having managed the Sycamore Canyon and Goodan Ranch Preserves for 17 years. Even in retirement, I continue to support Parks as a volunteer through the Friends of Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve. I expect to continue in this capacity for the foreseeable future. The following is a truthful, thoughtful commentary against the San Diego County’s Public Access Plan (PAP), as proposed for the Sycamore Canyon Preserve.

DPR is responsible for the protection of natural and cultural resources within its parks and preserves.  Under the California State Law, CEQA establishes principles for biological and cultural resource preservation. USF&W, CDF&W and guiding documents MSCP, SAP, FMP, CMP and IA, Parks develops their RMPs and ASMDs.  ASMDs applied to Sycamore/Goodan include wildlife & habitat monitoring, special status species monitoring, invasive plant controls, public access uses, monitoring & maintenance of trails & roads, erosion control, coordination of land managers & landowners, and cultural resource preservation & interpretation. DPR cannot ignore or dismiss the MSCP guiding principles of protection and preservation for the biological and cultural Preserve resources.  DPR has the responsibility to ensure resource preservation, while balancing public access and recreational opportunities.


Surveys documented 28 plant alliances (habitat communities), 582 plant and animal species within the Preserve.  Surveys detected 224 animal species: 81 invertebrate, 25 herptiles (amphibians, reptiles), 80 bird species, 38 mammals (14 bats, 13 small mammals, 11 medium/large mammals, and 358 plant species.

Thirty-nine special status wildlife species detected during baseline surveys in 2008 and 2011, of which 11 are MSCP covered species and protected under the MSCP.  A SPECIAL STATUS WILDLIFE or PLANT SPECIES is one listed by federal or state agencies as THREATENED or ENDANGERED, or on one of two lists County Sensitive Plant List, California Native Plant List.  Eleven plants are rated special status with 3 MSCP covered and protected under MSCP.


According to the MSCP Habitat Evaluation Model, the majority of the habitat in the Preserve is rated very high to high value and considered a core area (supporting a high concentration of sensitive biological resources.)


This Preserve has documented culture, both prehistoric and historical, in Phase 1 archeological surveys.  Much of the areas in newly acquired properties (where rogue trails are identified as existing proposed to open) and (construction of new trails by cutting through chaparral) in other areas, have not been inventoried due to various reasons including steep slopes, dense vegetation coverage etc.  Most of the cultural resources require more testing to determine their significance, however they are considered significant until tested under CEQA.

Three different cultural surveys submitted to DPR by Dudeck, ASM, and AECOM from 2012 through 2016 all suggest, “Any future development of recreational activities within the property must take into consideration potential impacts to cultural resources resulting from public access and increased public use.” “Including vandalism, looting and inadvertent impacts to site features and artifacts.” Construction of new trails may have significant adverse effects depending upon proximity to existing cultural and historic resources.

I would like to remind everyone of two of the County Parks Strategic Initiatives Goals; and Mission and Vision Statements.

  • ENVIRONMENT – Champion Resource Conservation & Environmental Stewardship/Parks Acquires, Protects, and Preserves the Region’s Natural and Cultural Resources while IMPROVING the Overall QUALITY of the ENVIRONMENT. TARGET ACQUISITIONS THAT PRESERVE LAND, HABITAT & WILDLIFE
  • SUSTAINABILITY – Implement Progressive Strategies that Conserve Natural Resources /We Value Long Term Ecological Preservation & Environmental Consciousness


We enhance the quality of life in San Diego County by providing exceptional parks and recreational experiences and preserving regional significant natural and cultural resources.


A Parks and Recreation system that is the pride of San Diego County and a national model for park and Recreation organizations.


San Diego County Parks total trail system includes 350 miles of trails. Sycamore Canyon Preserve currently has approximately 13 miles of public trails including roads. The 2600+ acre Preserve has five legal public access points soon possibly a sixth from the south.

The PAP proposed trail system should be scrapped and started over using an ethical, transparent, process including solicitation of input from resource advocate groups, non-trail users, such as CNPS, SDMMP, Audubon, Endangered Habitats League, California Chaparral Institute, SD River Conservancy, Save Wild Santee, SD Canyonlands, etc. Parks intent apparently is to turn the Preserve into a mountain biking park.

The only legitimate trail connections that should be considered are:

Trail segments depicted on Figure 21 of the Constraints Map

  • #13a Western end Ridge Trail
  • #28 Martha Grove Trail access to the Hagey property
  • #29 Pull-site road to Highway 67

The latest version of the PAP map legend deceptively defines rogue trails as “Informal Trails”. The map also labels rogue trails in several areas including Wu property, Airplane Trail, and southern acquisitions property as sanctioned, “Existing to Remain” trails.  In reality, these are illegally-cut mountain bike trails, game trails or former ranch roads.  The Wu property, Hagey property, Airplane cut trail, leading to an historic 1945 plane crash site, and Martha’s Grove trail all are biologically and culturally sensitive.  New trails should not be cut or aligned through these areas simply because they are suggested by a mountain biking group. These routes should be purposely avoided.  It is not indicated how the County plans to mitigate these significant resource impacts. Are some trails truly going to be closed?  What is the accurate mileage of trails proposed to be cut, proposed to be incorporated into this plan?

Unfortunately, from the start the PAP process for Sycamore Canyon Preserve has not been truly transparent. It seems that only the opinions of mountain biking enthusiasts have been considered at the exclusion of other voices.

DPR, appointed by law as the lead stewards of these voiceless, treasured resources, seems to be shirking its duty and responsibility to preserve and protect biological and cultural resources of the MSCP. This seemingly betrays the overall public trust through the current version proposed access plan.  Please do the right thing by making sure the protection of wildlife, habitat, and cultural resources are ensured.


Maureen Abare-Laudy

Volunteer and member of the Goodan Ranch / Sycamore Canyon County Preserve



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