FALLBROOK – Expansion became the hallmark for Fallbrook Land Conservancy during 2022 as this well-known and highly regarded conservation organization acquired several large parcels of land and continued preservation of others.
Karla Standridge, FLC executive director, said that financial contributions enabled the organization to acquire select parcels in North San Diego County, among them the 122-acre Pico Monserate Preserve that expands the Monserate Mountain Preserve holding, arguably one of the most popular hiking spots in the area. Another 2.5-acre parcel at the entrance to the Monserate Mountain trail system was acquired toward the end of the year, eliminating an in-fill property in the Monserate Mountain preserve system that now encompasses 580 acres.
In addition, she also reported that FLC recently acquired the 598-acre Ebsen Ranch in Ramona. Ebsen Ranch is a strategic part of the environmentally sensitive Cleveland Corridor that sits between the Palomar and Descansa Districts of the Cleveland National Forest. It was originally owned by Hollywood actor Buddy Ebsen.
FLC now owns 2,968 acres of conservation land and holds conservation easements, which restrict development, on another 969 acres in the region.
Standridge noted that while FLC acquired many environmentally sensitive properties in 2022, it expanded public access to others, including the 40-acre-plus Gird Valley Preserve adjacent to Monserate Winery.
She said contributions of many kinds enable FLC to acquire land but also manage trails for expanded public access and continue many educational programs throughout the region. Other donations in 2022 funded purchase of artwork in the Wildlife Sculpture Garden at the Palomares House: Song Dogs, a pair of coyotes featuring a mother and its pup, and Night Watch, an owl produced by local sculptor Austin Casson of De Luz.
Donations fund projects
While cash contributions from members and respected citizens in the community were instrumental in expanding the face of FLC, grants and other support was received from several notable organizations for other uses.
Legacy Endowment, a non-profit organization headquartered in Bonsall, provided a grant for the boardwalks and benches while the North Coast Church here provided volunteers and in-kind donations for the construction of another boardwalk in the Los Jilgueros Preserve. There was also a series of in-kind donations from Fallbrook Equipment Rental that allowed FLC to use special equipment to make other upgrades to areas used by the public.
In addition, staff members from Saxe Doernberger & Vita PLC, a local law firm, participated in trail improvement efforts alongside FLC's Trails Committee, notably at the Palomares House and the nearby Dinwiddie Preserve.
Contributions such as those also allowed FLC to renovate the iconic windmill at the Palomares House, a landmark item donated to the organization in the late 1990s.
Not all of the contributions to FLC came in cash.
The Native Plant Restoration Team and Save Our Forest, two active components of the FLC, gave back to the community in many ways during 2022.
The Native Plant Restoration Team assisted with the garden restoration at the Palomares House in the spring and spent the rest of the year tending to Los Jilgueros Preserve. The group spent many hours removing invasive plants like mustard as well as digging swales that will capture rainwater and allow it to sink into the soil.
The Native Plant Restoration Team not only cares for FLC properties, but also provides an informative social group where members learn about native and invasive plants, permaculture, and gather for coffee after volunteering each week.
The FLC executive director added that Save our Forest, a venerable effort that enhances tree-planting and other flora programs in the area, added an additional 40 trees to the Village of Fallbrook, often replacing invasive species. Save our Forest volunteers ended 2022 with a special project that removed a noxious and flammable plant near Fallbrook Cafe along Brandon Road and replaced it with jacaranda trees.