Eagle Scout creates new vernal pool viewing deck in the Carmel Mountain Preserve

Eagle Scout candidate Dylan Kearse in front of the new viewing deck in the Carmel Mountain Preserve.
(David Hogan)

Eagle Scout candidate Dylan Kearse and a local environmental group, The Chaparral Lands Conservancy, have completed a new viewing deck over a vernal pool wetland on the Carmel Mountain Preserve in Carmel Valley.

Just in time for the rainy season, the deck gives visitors to the Preserve an opportunity for close-up viewing of fairy shrimp, tadpoles and other vernal pool life with interpretive signs on the natural history of vernal pools. The deck and signs were designed and funded by the Conservancy and Dylan with major additional funding from The Friends of Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, and review and approval by City of San Diego park rangers. Dylan has also repaired trail fencing as part of his Eagle Scout project as a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 765.

“I’ve enjoyed visiting the Carmel Mountain Preserve near my home and the vernal pool deck was a great fit for an Eagle Scout Project,” said Dylan, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy in a news release. “This project had a bit of several great life experiences including teamwork, logistics, engineering, construction and biology. It’s been fun explaining the project to passersby during construction and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback.”

The new viewing deck in the Carmel Mountain Preserve.
(David Hogan)

The 300-acre Carmel Mountain Preserve is located east of Interstate 5 and south of State Route 56 in Carmel Valley, with a trail system open to hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. The Preserve was established in 1998 to protect several sensitive coastal ecosystems after a years-long grassroots campaign to block a residential housing development. The Preserve is now a part of the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Plan and protects ecosystems like vernal pools, southern maritime chaparral and coastal sage scrub and several dependent endangered species like California gnatcatchers, San Diego fairy shrimp and Del Mar manzanita.

An interpretive sign on the new viewing deck.
(David Hogan)

According to David Hogan, director of the Chaparral Lands Conservancy, vernal pools are one of California’s most endangered wetland ecosystems with over 95% of all original pools lost to development and agriculture. Seven animals and plants recognized as endangered or threatened under state and federal endangered species laws live on the Carmel Mountain Preserve and have benefited from a habitat restoration project conducted there by The Chaparral Lands Conservancy between 2012 and 2015.

“The original idea for the vernal pool deck originated with the Conservancy several years ago as part of our work to repair damaged habitat on the Preserve,” said Hogan in a news release. “But it took Dylan’s motivation and Eagle Scout project to get us over the finish line. Many visitors to the Preserve have heard of vernal pools and this is a great way to see them up close.”

While many trail options will get you there, the easiest way to check out the new viewing deck is via the trailhead at Ocean Air Community Park, located on 4777 Fairport Way.

A map of the Carmel Mountain Preserve.
(David Hogan)