Year in Review
Last updated 1/3/2020 at 4:26pm
While 2019 seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, there were many notable happenings in Fallbrook and Bonsall during those 12 months.
Weather-wise, the year started out much the same way as it ended, wet and cold. More streets flooded in February than in recent storms which affected several holiday events.
The biggest crime story of the year was the trial of Charles Merritt for the killing of the McStay family. While the trial took place in San Bernardino, the family was from Fallbrook and went missing almost 10 years ago. Drawn out court proceedings kept the case in the news; Merritt was found guilty in June, but his sentencing has been delayed until this Jan. 17.
Other lengthy deliberations that started in January include the transitioning to zone elections for most of our community districts – all four school districts (Bonsall Unified, Fallbrook Union Elementary, Fallbrook Union High School and Vallecitos), North County Fire Protection District and Fallbrook Regional Health District.
This process involved the input of residents who chose to participate in the process to ensure equal representation on those governing boards. In September, many of those same residents took part in National Voter Registration Day to encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections.
Volunteers played a big part in daily life here. The Sheriff's Senior Volunteer Patrol started daily foot patrols in downtown Fallbrook in May while members of several nonprofits have spent a good part of the year developing a proposed Community Benefit District to fund local projects.
The San Diego Board of Supervisors created the Fallbrook Revitalization Committee at the request of our new supervisor, Jim Desmond. The committee, made up of local volunteers, met twice this year and is working on ways to improve the Fallbrook's infrastructure, housing and public safety.
Other issues that received a lot of attention in the past year include homelessness, the coming of 5G wireless facilities, mail theft both from home mail boxes and post office drop off boxes, vandalism and graffiti. There were no easy solutions offered for any of them.
The increasing traffic through Rainbow Valley has caused ongoing problems that came to a head in July when a 13-year-old was killed in a traffic accident on Old Highway 395 at Rainbow Glen Road. Earlier efforts in dealing with the county over this issue helped in achieving an unusually quick response. A traffic signal at that location was put on the county's priority list in November.
Area residents also provided input on the plans for the San Luis Rey River Park, particularly the Rio Prado section adjacent to Rancho Monserate Country Club mobile home park which will be the most affected area.
On a brighter note, an unusually high number of Painted Lady Butterflies were seen all over town during their migration north in March and the Fallbrook Community Garden was opened up to all residents without fees in May, at the request of students in the English as a Second Language class at the Fallbrook Education Center.
Also, a landmark agreement, 68 years in the making, was reached when the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project was signed by U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in April, officially settling how the Fallbrook Public Utility District and U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton will share their water rights to the river.
Veterans were not forgotten this year. U.S. Army SPC Joey Paulk received a house built especially for him in Fallbrook from Home for Our Troops, Sept. 7. Two World War II veterans (Bill Hitt and Ernie Gale, both of Rainbow) were honored with Quilts of Valor, Nov. 10.
Ongoing fundraisers enabled the Fallbrook Food Pantry to buy its own property and its new location opened in September on North Brandon Road. At about the same time, Crestwood Fallbrook Healing Center opened its doors at the site of the former Fallbrook Hospital on Elder Street.
The Fallbrook Art Association celebrated its 50th anniversary, Sept. 28, 2019, and the opening of its Gallery on North Main Avenue earlier in the year.
New faces around town include the new executive director of the Foundation for Senior Care, Keith Birkfeld, while Fallbrook Union High School District has a new superintendent, Ilsa Garza-Gonzalez, and new principals for Fallbrook High, Dr. Narciso Iglesias, as well as for Ivy and Oasis High Schools, Michael Gray.
Fallbrook High School celebrated the success of its growing JROTC program as well as the girls field hockey team's winning the CIF championship in November, and Transportation Technology teacher Dennis Johnson being named a second-place winner of the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching, Oct. 24.
The coming year will have its challenges, including the difficulties of Prop A failing at the ballot box and leaving North County Fire with financial issues, and the upcoming state and national elections.
Local residents have made a good start on looking for solutions to some of the town's problems, so here's hoping that they will continue to work together for the benefit of all.