Board says habitat comes first on Mesa trail

A popular system of trails in the Del Mar Mesa Preserve remain the main point of contention as the public comment period wrapped up for the city's new resource management plan.

At a subcommittee meeting of the area's planning board on Monday night, members agreed that it defeats the purpose of the land to completely outlaw public use, but that habitat should come first.

Meeting in an effort to get their comments in under the wire, they said they felt that most of the makeshift trails should be closed and only appropriate, habitat-sustaining trails left for connectivity.

Chairman Gary Levitt said there needed to be more education about the preserve as well as more signs. Currently no signs indicate the space is protected.

He also said none of this would matter with proper enforcement adding, "There has to be some teeth behind it."

Trails and tribulations

The city's draft plan included only one designated trail through the preserve, the SDG&E service road. The 20-foot-wide trail is the least desirable for mountain bikers, said Allen Kashani, board member and a mountain biker.

He noted riders prefer to be more closely surrounded by nature.

The San Diego Mountain Bike Association and the San Diego Multi-Use Trails Committee proposed a diverse system of trails at the Sept. 18 Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve Citizen's Advisory Committee workshop for the city's consideration.

City Planner Bernie Turgeon said recommendations and public comments are currently under review and they will reveal their updated plan at the next citizen's advisory committee meeting on Nov. 20.

The jewel

The piece of land deemed most critical to the preserve is also the one most admired by users: Deer Canyon to the east. It features the scenic "tunnel" trails where hikers and bikers travel on a thin meandering path under the canopy of trees.

Neighbors and environmental agencies have been rattled by a large increase in use over the last six months. Levitt estimates use has quadrupled.

"It is effectively being loved to death," said Eric Basil of the Multi-Use Trails Committee.

Levitt said over the years he has frequented the trails and has seen trails go from a small path where you'd get scratches on your legs to some now three-feet-wide.

He said he's been amazed how many trails have been forged and connected. "It's suddenly become a freeway in some places," he said.

Del Mar Mesa resident and mountain biker Ryan Jones said that the increased use could be due to the elimination of the "Intestine" trails on the top of the mesa which were closed earlier this year as Pardee Homes began grading on their Shaw Lorenz project.

The closure of the trails led bikers east instead of west, Jones said.

   
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