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Collinsworth: Restoring Access to Popular Stowe Trail

Larger partnership could save the historic Stowe Trail across Marine Corps Air Station Miramar through Sycamore Canyon.

The historic Stowe Trail through has become one of the most popular mountain bike rides in San Diego County. It is unfortunate that the Marines felt the need to close access across this historic route.

There are at least two ways to resolve this issue, both of which include the resolution of conservation. With conservation of the Fanita Ranch, a segment of the Stowe Trail could be routed across Fanita Ranch rather than on its current route over Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

However, a much superior resolution would be to include the Marines, the County, and the cities of Santee, San Diego and other agencies in a partnership that would resolve all land use issues throughout Sycamore Canyon and keep the same basic route for the Stowe Trail throughout Sycamore Canyon that currently exists.

The current route includes public and private parcels within San Diego and Santee, the County of San Diego, and MCAS Miramar. A balanced partnership between all stakeholders that recognizes the important defense mission, the value of natural resources and recreational value of the trail would greatly benefit the public.

For example, the Marines have legitimate readiness and environmental management interests that federal law requires them to execute on the base. Fortunately, the Department of Defense was empowered with a Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) for managing the exact type of land-use issues that now surround and conflict with the mission of the base. The ongoing loss of natural resources to development off the base and the growing number of endangered species region-wide has placed increasing management burdens upon the Marines to balance military training activities with protection of endangered species under federal laws. With continued destruction of endangered species habitat off of the base – with the grading of each adjacent to the base, the pressures on the Marines to severely restrict or eliminate readiness training activities that adversely impact endangered species grows.

So how can the REPI “buffer program” resolve the issues? First, (to her credit) has been working on resolving the recreational issue with the military for approximately a decade and has built the foundation for a wider partnership.

Directly adjacent to the base within the city of Santee is the , which has a small segment of the trail, but more importantly contains 2,600-acres of endangered species habitat that can reduce the growing burdens of endangered species management and other urban pressures upon the base. While , the military showed interest in a partnership that would include REPI acquisition funds for Fanita Ranch conservation.

If a partnership acquisition of Fanita Ranch (Fanita is the “missing link”) connected to Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve, regional park managers could be utilized to maintain appropriate recreational use on lands where they currently have no authority. The Marines could then be relieved of the unacceptable encroachment burdens along their eastern boundary and get back to training. Furthermore, a partnership acquisition of Fanita Ranch could result in a release of conservation funds from other public sources that would allow the County to execute a previously negotiated acquisition of military lands currently traversed by the historic Stowe Trail.

While various segments of this partnership that would resolve all issues have come together over the last decade, there has always been one consistent impediment – that is the role played by . If the City of Santee would lead, join or at least the disbursement of conservation funds to a willing seller of Fanita Ranch, than most of the land use issues of Sycamore Canyon could be resolved for the public’s benefit.

Considering that the new economic reality of sprawl development demonstrates that there are only costs and no benefits to the city if Fanita is graded – maybe citizens can persuade the to revisit the potential for a greater resolution of this costly stalemate.

The voice of an outspoken public is the cement needed to solidify a mutually beneficial partnership.

Van Collinsworth is Resource Analyst/Executive Director for Preserve Wild Santee.

Ryan M April 12, 2012 at 01:58 PM
The irony is that the 6100+ acre Mission Trails Regional Park near the historic Stowe Trail has so little singletrack that is multi-use and legal to mtn bikers, that we feel the need to ride Stowe and other singletrack trails north of the 52. So many mtn bikers would be willing to donate their time to create new singletrack trails as an alternative to the numerous fireroads that are currently referred to as "trails". Sadly, Mission Trails is called "Missing Trails" by the mtn bike community.
Paul m April 12, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Van, I ran for Mayor of Santee last election cycle and am an avid mountain biker. I feel like a hypocrite riding back to Goodin from my house. I see the dirt bikers and off-roaders (motorized) and I want to get involved to keep the land back there quiet and pristine. The hypocrisy on my part comes in when I realize I'm back there riding on my bike. Let me know what I can do to help keep that area open for all to enjoy. Well - mostly all. :) I emailed Diane Jacobs office and did get a response that she intends to introduce another attempt to get the corridor opened. I'd be happy to help be a thorn in the side of the Santee council. That area back there is just bustling with life. There are small herds of deer and an amazing amount of ugly motocross induced erosion carnage. If we could get some control and stewardship back there, the off roaders may be taught that wide open throttle runs straight up a hill are not good for anyone. Paul
Paul m April 12, 2012 at 04:09 PM
If you shoot off of Spring Canyon there are a handful of nice route, and Oak Canyon (off limits) has the 'rifle range' trail - but off limits. :( Need I mention Sycamore 'blazing saddles' - WOW. I also love the logs that some kind soul installed back in the Oaks. Amazing land, worth fighting for.
Ryan M April 12, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Yeah, I'm familiar with the trails you mentioned as well as Blazing Saddle's newest neighbor - Mongo - and it's hard to come down on the motos when those guys were there before us mtn bikers, but there are guys that ride responsibly and others that don't. Hopefully all of this attention will help to preserve this area. Is the city council also aware of the indian grinding stones that are in the center of this development? I'm assuming those have been marked and will be preserved even if there is development out there.
Scott B October 31, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Where is Mongo? I''ve ridden Blazing many times and the only offshoot trail I've found is about halfway down, where Blazing makes a right 180, this trail goes straight and heads back to the top of the Cuyamaca St. Switchbacks. Scott
Paul m October 31, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Scott B - check out Strava? I think maybe Mongo is listed / defined there? I know there's a trail 1/2 way 'up' Blazing Saddles that heads south called 'detonator' and it's a tough climb, but fun. I was back there yesterday and it looks like some 4-wheeled (quad or similar sized) has been on the stowe trail and doing some trail blazing. I saw a fleet of Sheriff SUV about two weeks ago heading back there. I wonder if that was them? It's a bummer the 4 wheelers tend to like to cut new trails in a vertical fashion up the sides of hills and the ruts and erosion are pretty bad. If we can get the land set aside, we can get involved in managing it. The more I'm back there, the more passionate I'm becoming about preserving it as is (or slightly improved) for multi-use (non motorized).
Doug Curlee October 31, 2012 at 10:54 PM
scott..where is mongo?.. why, in santa maria, of course.. (R.I.P. alex karras).. doug

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