Doubled in size, Sycamore Canyon Preserve will have more trails open for public use

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A full house on Jan. 24 at the Lakeside Community Center where different user groups came to offer feedback on the recently expanded Goodan Ranch/Sycamore Canyon County Preserve situated north of Lakeside on Highway 67 South, across from the entrance to the El Capitan County Preserve. The County of San Diego acquired 1,128 acres land in 2015, an area known as the Mission Trail Regional Park’s West Sycamore, adding more than seven miles of trails to the existing preserve. 

A full house on Jan. 24 at the Lakeside Community Center where different user groups came to offer feedback on the recently expanded Goodan Ranch/Sycamore Canyon County Preserve situated north of Lakeside on Highway 67 South, across from the entrance to the El Capitan County Preserve. The County of San Diego acquired 1,128 acres land in 2015, an area known as the Mission Trail Regional Park’s West Sycamore, adding more than seven miles of trails to the existing preserve. 

Melanie Tilke, with the SD County Parks and Recreation, pointed out that the plan for the now 2,400 acres of trails and wildlife habitat are under evaluation with the goal of extending the current trail system to accommodate multi-use for hikers, mountain bikers and horse back riders.

“We want to see what would you like to have within this preserve,” said Tilke. She said the next steps would be to analyze the public input with the help of environmental consultants, have another public workshop “hopefully in the summer and from there we will finalize the public access plan which will be incorporated into an overarching resource management plan.” After the environmental quality act will be completed, the county will move forward to “implement some of the proposed trails with the help of volunteers. Some of the more difficult ones require funding and we will have to address that,” concluded Tilke.  The public then gathered around the working stations with displayed maps and county specialists ready to answer questions and record public comments. David Knoep, chief of operations for the SD County Park and Recreation, stated the county is constantly open to expand the area as properties become available, but “we are limited in what we can do. For example, we cannot cut across habitat area, so we are looking for solutions to make everyone happy.”

Seth Hanson, a mountain biker all his life, confirms he is very happy with the recent developments at the Sycamore Preserve: “This trail area is potentially one of the most exciting trails that could be legal in San Diego. I would really like to see them keep it open and support the trail integrity.” He believes Sycamore has the potential to become world-class trail system for mountain bikers if it remains the same. Pointing to his t-shirt with the inscription “Mountain biking is not a crime,” Hanson laughed and added that he doesn’t like to be trapped on “bunny trails.” 

The horse back riders do not share the same view and stated the trails should be widened to at least 4 ft to make room for hikers and horses. Cindy Denny with the Lakeside Frontier Riders and SD Trail Alliance came “to promote trail safety, multi-use and to save the trails. Lots of them need to be fixed, so all users can enjoy them.”  She is seconded by Barbara Huges, president of the Lakeside Frontier Riders, who believes “the project is great and we need to get together with everybody and accommodate all user groups, not just one group. The trails are sometimes too narrow, because they are for bikers. It’s dangerous and difficult to ride on them and even for hikers who cannot see ahead if there is a snake along the trail.” Denny added “most of the time equestrians get out of the way because bikers are going faster, but hikers need to step aside. If you cannot widen the trails, at least build areas to step aside, just to add to add to the safety.” 

The Goodan Ranch/Sycamore Canyon Preserve is already hosting annual races for mountain bikers in partnership with Quick ‘n Dirty MTB Race Series. The president of this organization, Victor Sheldon, said they are going on the 5th year of using the 8-mile course on every first week of December. “Our vision is to see more multi-use trails and have a bit more support from SD County for mountain biking. We’ve learned that trails bring people together, it’s a good way to get outside, enjoy and exercise, key word.” Parts of the proceeds from the race are donated to different charitable causes in the county. 

One person stood out from the crowd. Carol Stachwick, horse owner and bike rider, walked between the stations on crutches, giving out printed write-ups, sharing her story. She just had an accident a week before the meeting when she rode her horse on Sycamore Canyon Road, a narrow street that neither city of Poway, nor the City of San Diego claim as theirs. Stachwick rode her horse with a friend when speeding cars spooked her horse and she got trapped hanging and being dragged on the road before the horse freed himself and ran away. “So he’s got a huge gash on his chest and he’s having trouble walking this week. I cracked my heel bone and I have road rash all over,” among other injuries, she said.  Stachwick proposes better road signage “to educate the drivers for the sake of bike riders and horse riders.” The problem is, “we are not sure who to talk about that and we don’t know how to get permissions to get access to the trails. The Sycamore road has a small parking lot and staging area and if they open more trails, there’s gonna be more riders out there, hikers, more traffic, more dangerous for anybody who is not in a car. If we can run across the street and open a trail on that side, problem solved. So we are here tonight to try to get that done.“

The preserve is currently accessible from Highway 67 South (gate closes at 5 p.m.) and Sycamore Canyon Road. Pedestrians have access from sunrise to sunset. Regular hours during winter are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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