Village News Reporter
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors set a Wednesday, June 14, hearing date to acquire approximately 425 acres of open space land which would be added to Mount Olympus Preserve.
The supervisors voted 4-0 Wednesday, May 3, with Nathan Fletcher absent, to set the June 14 hearing date. The property would be purchased from Rancho Aruba LLC for the appraised value of $2,128,000.
Mount Olympus separates Pala from Rainbow, and the draft North County Multiple Species Program includes the land as a preserve both for its sensitive species such as the Rainbow manzanita and Engelmann oak and for its value as a linkage and corridor for animals including large animals such as deer, mountain lion, coyote and bobcat. The preserve currently totals 836 acres.
The state of California annually allocates $2 million of competitive Habitat Conservation Fund grants to local governments. The grants may be used to acquire or develop wildlife corridors or trails, protect plant and animal species or provide for nature interpretation programs. They may also be used for activities which bring urban residents into park and wildlife areas. The Habitat Conservation Fund program requires grant recipients to provide a 50% match. A June 2022 county board of supervisors vote authorized the director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation or his designee to submit the necessary documents to apply for Habitat Conservation Fund grants for Mount Olympus and for Kumeyaay Valley Park in Lakeside and authorized the Department of Parks and Recreation director to complete all documents necessary to accept the grant funding if it is awarded. The grant for Kumeyaay Valley Park would not add any land but would be used for invasive plant species treatment. In March 2023, the county was awarded a $200,000 grant for the Mount Olympus Preserve land acquisition.
A 425-acre property adjacent to the existing Mount Olympus Preserve was identified as available. The acquisition of the six legal parcels would preserve mountain lion and mule deer habitat in a confirmed mountain lion corridor. The $2,128,000 appraised value equates to approximately $5,000 per acre and incorporates existing conservation measures on the property which would limit the land’s development potential.
General fund money would be used for the $200,000 match as well as for the remainder of the acquisition costs. The estimated total $2,614,000 one-time cost also includes $30,000 for staff time and appraisal reports to complete the transaction, $7,000 for closing and title costs, $449,000 in one-time land improvement costs including $294,000 for the preparation of a preserve-specific resource management plan and initial species monitoring and $155,000 to conduct initial stewardship including signage, access control, vegetation management and land surveying. The estimated $230,600 annual ongoing cost for assessments, monitoring, operations and management of the property consists of $168,100 for two new full-time equivalent park ranger positions, $53,500 for site management and $9,000 for adaptive management and biological monitoring.
If the county supervisors approve the purchase and authorize county staff to execute the transaction documents June 14, the supervisors would also appropriate $200,000 from the Multiple Species Conservation Program Acquisitions Fund for the grant match and find the acquisition of the parcels to be categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review.
Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].