Tension mounts at CAC meeting

Illegal Del Mar Mesa trails system closure reiterated

Ride ‘em while you got ‘em.

That was the philosophy of users of Del Mar Mesa Preserve trails while the city and environmental agencies made assessments to determine the fate of the trails. Now, anyone caught using the trails will face citations.

City Park Ranger John Garwood said that the whole area is off limits.

“If you come on city property, we’re going to get you,” said Garwood, speaking at last week’s Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Citizens Advisory Committee meeting.

The popular system of illegal trails was closed off to public access for good on Dec. 12 after several trees were cut in the tunnels in Deer Canyon. But some users never got the message.

There are no signs on private property access points and the signs placed by city rangers on city property have been taken down and tossed aside in some places, according to Garwood.

The CAC expressed worry that there is too much misinformation being taken as truth regarding trail access, not helped by a Channel 10 news report that featured CAC treasurer and member-at-large Eric Basil and aired on Jan. 12.

In the report, Basil commented that when it came to the trails, a small group of people wished it were 1909 not 2009 and said equestrians wanted to close the tunnel trails because “horses don’t fit on them.”

“It is not a public trail, it is a bootleg trail, it’s trespassing, it’s vandalism,” CAC Board member Anne Harvey said. “It is our job as members of the CAC to make that very clear. The city did not close public trails, the city enforced no trespassing where there are no recognized trails.”

The city is working on a new resource management plan for the preserve and the trails and has submitted trail alternatives to the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service, which both own portions of the environmentally sensitive preserve that is part of the city’s Multiple Species Conservation Program. A final plan is expected to come by March.

The CAC serves as one of the advisory boards on the Del Mar Mesa issue, although the San Diego City Council has final say.

Equestrians being blamed

Last week’s meeting of the CAC showed there is dissension within the group.

Shouting filled the small Los Penasquitos Ranch House that serves as their meeting place.

Several Carmel Valley equestrians and Del Mar Mesa residents came to protest the way Basil represented them in the Channel 10 news report.

Carmel Valley resident Jill McCarty said Basil had alluded that equestrians were responsible for the tree cutting. A picture of a local equestrian was also used in the report, his face blurred. Though not charged with the cutting, his likeness was used to illustrate an equestrian making the tree cuts.

McCarty said Basil is trying to shift blame for trail destruction from bike riders to equestrians. She jokingly challenged all equestrians to come to her ranch for a contest with a $10 entry fee.

“Any equestrian who can cut a six-inch limb off a tree while mounted and then drop the log and stay mounted will win all entry fees,” McCarty said. “We’ll have a barbecue afterward.”

McCarty said she spoke on behalf of six others in the room, requesting an apology. When Basil refused, the group stormed out, slamming the door, some muttering curse words.

Basil felt ‘vilified’

CAC members also were disturbed by the Channel 10 report.

Bunny Clews, a Carmel Valley representative on the board, said Basil’s comments were “inflammatory.” Board member Marvin Gerst even asked that Basil step down from his position on the board.

Basil sat quietly during the comments from the audience and board. When given a three-minute window to respond, he said he regretted being “vilified” and attacked and felt it was inappropriate that it was allowed to continue in the public forum.

Basil said he was surprised at the way information he’d given the reporter was edited and said he did not submit the photo of the local rider.

CAC member Brian Swanson said it was important that the group all get on the same page and remember their top goal is to protect the preserve.

“The preserve is a preserve, it’s not a recreational site,” Swanson said.