Committee recommends city approval of controversial trail plan in Carmel Valley area

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

An informal vote by a show of hands at the Oct. 19 Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Citizen’s Advisory Committee meeting showed more than 100 users did not approve of a trail plan that does not allow for a crossing through the southeast corner of the Del Mar Mesa Preserve.

Despite the opposition, the CAC voted 7-6 to recommend that the city approve the resource management plan (RMP) for the Del Mar Mesa and Carmel Mountain preserves, along with its controversial trail plan. The motion passed by the board encouraged the city and the agency who owns the land, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), to continue working on establishing an east-west connection.

That east-west connection was also recommended by the Carmel Mountain and Del Mar Mesa community planning boards. The plan will now go before the San Diego City Council for the final say.

A motion to approve the plan without conditions was defeated 7-6, as was a motion to reject the plan. Ultimately, the board got behind a motion that reasonable public access makes sense, understanding that the CDFG has an obligation to protect the resources they have.

“I think the RMP is a good compromise between closing off the area entirely and the more devastating plan that put more trails in that area,” said CAC chair Marvin Gerst, who voted in favor of the motion despite the fact that he doesn’t like the east-west connection. He sees it as becoming a transportation corridor through open space.

“Our job is to advise on what the community wants and what I’m hearing citizens saying is that this plan is not sufficient,” said CAC member Minette Ozaki. “Not one person in the room said they approve of the RMP as it exists and there’s no way I’m approving it.”

Some members worried that their conditional approval would get lost and that “encouragement” for a trail to exist some time in the future was not a strong enough message.

“Why approve a sub par plan with the hope that trail will happen because it probably won’t,” said CAC member Dean Kirby.

The crowd at the meeting was about as large and as passionate as they had been three years ago at the first public meeting on the RMP and trails plan. While user input resulted in trails such as “Rim Trail,” “Tunnel 4” into Deer Canyon and “Duck Pond Trail” getting added to the plan, they still wanted more of their favorites to be included—particularly an east-west connection in the southeast part of Del Mar Mesa.

California Department of Fish and Game owns that land and has not yet allowed any trails through that property due to the sensitive habitat of vernal pools.

Users said Del Mar Mesa is considered “one of the best places to ride in San Diego” with its single-track trails, winding and narrow that naturally slow speed. In some areas those small single tracks have been replaced with the wide SDG&E trails that have been compared in the past to a steep, pinball machine where even experienced riders get tossed left and right. Riders said that the road averages a 17 percent grade and can be riddled with vernal pools.

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