Del Mar Mesa Preserve trail vandalized
A trail in the Del Mar Mesa Preserve was recently vandalized as someone made multiple cuts of trees and brush that create the preserve’s unique Tunnel trails that take users on a single-track path under a low, overhanging canopy of branches.
San Diego Parks and Recreation Senior Ranger Gina Washington said she was made aware of the damage on June 29 and believes the cuttings happened sometime in the week before. She counted seven areas where cuts were made of Nuttall’s scrub oaks (one of the rarest oaks in California) and lemonade berry shrubs, mostly at the top part of Tunnel 4.
For the record:
11:49 a.m. July 7, 2022A previous version incorrectly stated that equestrian use is permitted—While allowed in other areas of the preserve, equestrian use is not allowed on the Tunnel trails.
The Tunnel trail can be accessed from several different directions but from the trailhead at Park Village Road, it’s about three-quarters of a mile to where the cuts were made; from the most popular trailhead at the ballfields on Canyonside Recreation Center, it’s about two miles in.
“These were lower branches that came across the trail, something about Del Mar Mesa that people really value the most because it’s so unique,” Washington said.
The cuts were very specific, not someone who came out to just vandalize the preserve but someone making the cuts for ease of trail use. The lower branches make the trail a little higher skill for cyclists and also serve as a speed deterrent, Washington said. By making the cuts, a rider could potentially go much faster on the multi-use trail.
The San Diego Mountain Bike Association made it clear that they do not condone the “thoughtless destruction” of the oaks.
“The allure of the trail is a winding, narrow path traveling through tight and low vegetation cover. They were built around and through the trees, used since the mid 1970s without any issues,” said Matt Bartelt, president of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association. “This is heartbreaking to all who fought for more than 10 years to have the trails legally recognized and adopted into the City of San Diego’s trail network in 2016.
“These trails are not sidewalks. The user needs to adapt to the environment rather than changing the environment to accommodate the user.”
The cuttings were left behind and the person also left very long stumps—Washington said the small staff of rangers will need to get back in and do a better job of cutting the stumps because they can leave the trees open to disease and pests.
Both Washington and Bartelt wanted to remind people that if they see a problem in the preserve, they should not attempt to address it themselves—it is illegal to prune, deface, or change a trail without authorization.
In this case, the branches were low but they are specifically low to slow bicyclists for safety reasons on a multi-use trail that is frequented by hikers and runners. Del Mar Mesa is also filled with rare and endangered plants and taking matters into your own hands could do irreparable damage to very sensitive plant species.
At the entryways to the preserve, there is signage that reminds guests of the sensitive habitat and at the middle of the Tunnels, there is a kiosk that informs guests that if they see what they believe to be a maintenance issue, they can call a ranger. People can also use the city’s Get It Done app to drop a pinpoint on a map to contact rangers directly of an issue to be looked at and addressed properly.
“These are preserves, not parks so they need to be treated in a different way,” Washington said.
To report an issue, call (858) 538-8066. Learn more about the Get it Done app at sandiego.gov/get-it-done
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