By Suzanne Evans
Mountain biker coalitions are urging a few more trails be included in the eastern portion of the Del Mar Mesa Preserve, while the Del Mar Mesa Planning Board continues to pursue inclusion of its long advocated east-west trail and ranger enforcement.
“We don’t have a reasonable (trail network) now without an east-west corridor,” said Mesa board member and avid biker Allen Kashani at the board’s Oct. 13 meeting, adding that he also likes to make a circular trip around the preserve from Pacific Highlands Ranch to Carmel Mountain Preserve and back.
“We are not adding extensive trails,” Kashani said, referring to a map drawn up by chair Gary Levitt to be presented in a letter to Chris Zirkle, city deputy director of open space and to senior city planner Bernie Turgeon, depicting the board’s trail suggestions.
Responding to the city’s request for board action on the proposed Del Mar Mesa Specific Plan trails amendment to incorporate additional trails, the letter contains a map of the board’s proposed trail changes, (including an east-west connector that avoids endangered vernal pools). The board approved the letter if modified to reflect an east-west connection and increased ranger visibility.
Continuing his presentation from the board’s July meeting, Turgeon showed members changes he made within the current preserve framework, incorporating some of Levitt and the board’s previous suggestions, noting trails following existing roads, as well as multi-use, equestrian/bike, and hike/bike trails. Because the preserves are part of San Diego’s Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) protecting plant and animal habitats, development is restricted.
The San Diego Mountain Biker Association has long advocated the east-west trail connection. “If there is no east-west connection, people will make their own,” said Rob Mikuteit, representing the bikers, also supporters of keeping some previously created, popular “tunnel” trails in the plan.
“(The city) looked at every trail on Gary’s map,” Turgeon told the board, noting trails not approved by the city, such as those unsafe (too steep) to use, or that cross the Dept. of Fish and Game territory, endangering fairy shrimp in vernal pools. Turgeon summarized the city’s appraisal of the board’s suggested five trails:
Trail Number 1: “The city does not support the trail from Shaw Lorenz development (139 one-acre lots at the junction of Del Mar Mesa Rd. and Carmel Country Rd.), and there are no plans to add it at this time. Trail number 2 follows the utility line in the east and is unsafe for crossing; The number 3 eastern trail is under contract to be transferred to the city and the owners don’t want a trail there,” Turgeon said.
Trail 4 crosses the California Dept. of Fish and Game’s 137 acres in the middle of the preserve, where there are vernal pools and ponds, and they have denied trail access, Turgeon said. “We want to go on record (however), that we want an east-west connection,” Kashani said. Trail 5 “The trail off Anderson Ridge Place [near the center of the preserve] is very steep, and (the city) is not comfortable (designating that part a trail),” Turgeon said.
Board member and trails representative Marvin Gerst cautioned an east-west corridor might become a “kind of road.” Gerst, though, said he hoped the city’s final plan could be a “compromise” that people would support.
“We are not adding extensive trails,” Kashani said, reiterating, “(Our position) is really all about having an east-west corridor.”
“The board would like to be involved in future decisions to add or remove trails,” Levitt concluded in his letter to the city. Levitt also emphasized the importance of providing the east-west connector in the specific planning document and providing interpretive signage on the trails.
Board member Lisa Ross urged including “a strong paragraph” on trail usage enforcement to provide a ranger’s oversight.
“Somewhere in between is a balance of responsibility and preservation, and I hope we can achieve that through personal commitment,” board vice-chair Elizabeth Rabbitt said after the meeting.
After the affected community planning boards give their input, the Los Penasquitos Canyon Citizens Advisory Committee will also give its recommendation, followed by the San Diego City Council’s final decision.