Escondido Creek Conservancy board member to retire after 18 years

Jeff Swenerton spent 18 years on the conservancy's board of directors.
(Courtesy of Escondido Creek Conservancy)

After 18 years on the Escondido Creek Conservancy Board of Directors, Elfin Forest resident Jeffrey Swenerton announced in January that he will retire.

“We have a number of very talented educators on the board, and I feel it’s important to pass the torch on and let them assume the responsibility of the education program,” said Swernton, a longtime educator in the Del Mar Union School District before retiring from that field in 2004.

The conservancy is a 30-year-old land trust that oversees about 3,000 acres of wildlife habitat and provides annual outdoor education opportunities to thousands of youths and adults. It was established as more and more development began taking place throughout North County.

Swenerton said his proudest accomplishments as a board member include the establishment of the conservancy’s education program, building an interpretive center at the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, the ongoing fundraising, and using the venue to give children an up-close look at nature.

“Taking kids outside, getting them outside in nature is incredibly important, and what happens in the classroom is obviously incredibly important,” Swenerton said, “but taking kids out into nature and doing real science is really important.”

One of the hallmark moments of his tenure came in 2006, when the conservancy began talking to Olivenhain Municipal Water District about building a small interpretive center on the 784-acre Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, which is managed by the water district. The center was dedicated in 2009.

“It’s truly a work of art,” Swenerton said of the center, which was designed by San Diego artist James Hubbell.

Living in close proximity to trails for hiking and other activities helped fuel Swenerton’s work at the conservancy over the years.

“We have really been part of a very rural and natural setting,” he said. “That’s probably the major influence I had that bonded me to nature and the idea that we need to preserve our creek and preserve the earth.”

One of Swenerton’s recently priorities has been a Seed the Future campaign to continue growing the conservancy’s education programs and other offerings.

“To watch Jeff work with young students is a marvelous thing,” Ann Van Leer, the conservancy’s executive director, said in a statement. “His face lights up as he tells them stories of nature and encourages them to become scientists and think for themselves. Jeff believes at his core in the possibility of each and every student to achieve in school and in life. Jeff has been the Conservancy’s teacher too.”

Simon Breen, the conservancy’s education director, added that “Jeff is an extraordinary mentor and an inspiration to me.”

“He’s a renaissance man of many talents, and he channels his boundless passion, energy, and skills into action,” Breen said. “Whether it’s engaging a student, appealing to a donor, or mobilizing a volunteer crew, he always brings out the best in people.”

Visit for more information on the conservancy.