Carlsbad Highlands Ecological Reserve update #2

Carlsbad Highlands Ecological Reserve Update

August 24, 2017    

    I have received a number of emails from folks lately and wanted to provide an update on progress on Calaveras officially known as Carlsbad Highlands Ecological Reserve (CHER). We have had several meetings with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the owner and land manager of CHER, to talk about how to move forward. I want to be clear that currently there are no legal trails within CHER outside of the two fire roads within the property and hikers are the only user group allowed on those trails.

    SDMBA’s goal from the onset of this project is to come to a reasonable compromise with CDFW on public access within the Reserve. At this point we have produced and shared maps with CDFW, these maps do not contain trail priorities, but rather all impacts on the property. We are attempting to first discuss zones within CHER that CDFW would find appropriate for trails. From there SDMBA believes the best way forward is to organize a public forum where trail users can provide their own feedback on priorities within the Reserve.


    Since our last presentation to the community in Carlsbad on June 14, we have held several meetings with CDFW including all local San Diego Supervisors within the office, the regional director for Southern California, and even been in correspondence to the Director of CDFW in Sacramento. We also had a meeting with Senator Bates to discuss this issue with myself and some local residents. SDMBA’s President, Kevin Loomis,  walked the property with the Reserve Manager recently as well and attempted to highlight the urban pressures on this property. SDMBA has also engaged with the City of Carlsbad at several levels to make it known we would take significant issue with the City of Carlsbad providing enforcement on CDFW’s property.

    I do not want to make any promises.  This has been and will continue to be a slow process. CDFW has committed to a partnership with SDMBA to attempt to find a solution to the problem on this property. But it is important to note how many eyes are on this process and we recently became aware of a letter written by a coalition of prominent conservationists in San Diego warning against unfettered access to preserved lands by mountain bikers. The seriousness of this letter is significant and I would encourage you to read it here.

    Many of you are asking what is the status of enforcement on the property and although I cannot answer that question for you definitively, CDFW has not enjoyed the increased scrutiny that was brought on them recently and has taken little action on the property since. The City of Carlsbad is also wary of stepping into the bees nest at CHER by using their new ranger program to provide enforcement for the State.

    We will continue to work towards a durable solution at CHER and keep the public in the loop on all negotiations and changes. We all have a stake in this process and all share responsibility. The damage to the property, and the habitat is significant at this point. Further trail building and destruction of habitat will most likely lead to further enforcement. If you have any concerns to report, please send along notes and/or photos as appropriate.   

    SDMBA believes there is a solution to be found between CDFW, City of Carlsbad, conservation groups, mountain bikers and the public. This can only be accomplished through community buy in and local stewardship.                     


                                    Ben Stone

                                    SDMBA Vice President