Tijuana River Valley


Land Manager:  County of San Diego

Border Field State Park - California State Parks


Historically, the Tijuana River Valley had strong bonds to farming and a thriving equestrian community, but in the last 15 years the area has seen significant changes. While there are still many ranches and boarding stables, The County of San Diego purchased many of the privately held parcels in the Valley over the last decade and the federal government even took some of this land under eminent domain when the secondary border fence was built. Similar to many other areas of our county, this area is a patchwork of privately held parcels, ownership by the Border Patrol, County of San Diego, City of San Diego, and the San Diego Wildlife Refuge. 

Tijuana River Valley Regional Park currently offers more than 1,800 acres of diverse habitats to enhance visitors' experiences – from dense riparian forests along the Tijuana River to coastal maritime sage scrub on top of Spooner's Mesa. Experience the extensive system of trails that link the many habitats in this fertile river valley. You can hike, mountain-bike and ride horseback along 22.5 miles of multi-use trails.  

In 2015, SDMBA engaged with the local mountain biking community (San Ysidro Baika Club) because no biking signs had gone up on almost all the trails within the park with even a couple fire roads closed to bikes. The County of San Diego had just finished its EIR (Environmental Impact Review) and was working to close many of the redundant trails within the park that had not been included in the trails plan. The equestrian community, including the Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association (TRVEA), had historically been the primary source of volunteer labor in the area and had been heavily involved in the EIR.  They had been able to insert trail designations for user groups into the EIR. Most of the mountain bikers who came to the meeting were families who use the park and live in the surrounding communities including San Ysidro. They were shocked that they were being kicked off their backyard trails and had no idea about the process that had been taking place.

The County and equestrian groups made the usual, reflex move which was to site that trail safety was a significant issue and these decisions had been made to protect people on horseback from mountain bikers. Although the San Diego Mountain Biking Association did not have a significant following in this area, we believed this was not only wrong to exclude our user group from these trails, but from a policy standpoint it had to be aggressively lobbied for change. 

In 2016, SDMBA long with local mountain biking advocates, were able to effect change although it was a compromise.  We believed the answer was for the County to open up the entire trail system to multi-use. Their decision was to open most of the trails to multi-use but not quite all.  Multi-use trail designation did increase from 13 miles to 21 miles making 93% of the trails within the park multi-use.  Most of the newly opened sections are an area called Sherwood Forest.  Only about 1.25 miles of trail are now closed to bikes including the trail known as Brian’s Bridle.

This positive outcome happened because local mountain bikers on the ground who loved their County Park decided to get involved. They started showing up to trails meetings. In addition, volunteers from SDMBA, the community mountain bike groups such as the Bonita Bikers, and the local equestrian organizations, such as TRVEA arranged horse desensitization days with horses and bikes to gain knowledge on how to mitigate conflict.  SDMBA attended many meetings with the County and kept this area as part of the conversation. County Supervisors were also informed on the issues. It was emphasized to the County Parks and Recreation Department that getting people interested in their local parks only leads to better stewardship. SDMBA offered several stewardship programs along the way to help enhance the park and user compatibility including signage, trail design, and a bike bell program.

So, the outcome was that many miles of trail are now open to mountain bikes that weren’t open before.  What we have really gained were relationships with the local equestrian community, local land managers, and local advocates that are now more involved in their parks.