RCP Block & Brick helps create the building blocks of East County

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RCP Block & Brick, a family-owned business that began in 1947 by Marvin Finch has helped create the very foundation of much of East County. Merging in 1966 with the Chubb family of La Mesa Block Company to become RCP Company, and later RCP Block & Brick, the Santee-based company has continued through three generations the vision of a better future for East County.

RCP Block & Brick, a family-owned business that began in 1947 by Marvin Finch has helped create the very foundation of much of East County. Merging in 1966 with the Chubb family of La Mesa Block Company to become RCP Company, and later RCP Block & Brick, the Santee-based company has continued through three generations the vision of a better future for East County.

One of the most recent components of that vision is the Walker Trail Preserve, a segment of the San Diego River Trail that local city and county officials celebrated at a recent ground-breaking. At the new trail alongside the river, beautiful strong sycamores and other trees line the riverbed. The beautification was, in large part, due to RCP’s sand mining reclamation plan.

“Over the last 20 years RCP has worked very hard to reclaim the Walker River Park to be sanctuary it is today for our natural environment,” said CFO Kathy Olsen.

Because RCP does manufacture bricks and blocks of concrete and other materials, sand mining is one of its largest operations. Tom Phelps, manager of sand mining, explained that sand mining is the extraction of alluvial deposits, in other words sand, in a watershed such as a valley, river, lake or pond. Sand is created over thousands of years of material washed down from higher elevations.

“RCP Block & Brick, Inc. became involved in sand mining as a means to provide the sand needed for our main business which is the manufacture of concrete masonry units and retaining wall block,” Phelps said.

RCP mined the Walker property using a dragline, excavators, wheeled front-end loaders and a suction dredge.

All that sand mining caused the riverbed to be used up. The Reclamation Plan of 1992 initiated the construction of a streambed stabilizer at the eastern end of the Walker property, location of the new trail.

Phelps explained that the stabilizer is a large dam-like structure, designed to protect the San Diego River property to the east from erosion and scouring. As mining was completed in areas slopes were graded and native vegetation was planted as was designated in the approved Reclamation Plan.

The State’s goal was to leave mined properties in a safe condition and to become assets to the Communities in which they existed, Phelps said.

RCP actually helped to beautiful the riverbed in the reclamation process. The valley, which is between two ranges of hills to the south and north, has been predominantly used for dairies and farming.

“The topography was flat. I have seen an aerial photo from the 1920’s that shows that topography,” said Phelps.

The valley would flood during large rainstorms and was not suitable for development. As the sand was mined, usually down to the water table the underground river was uncovered and river channels were created. This and the raising of the elevation of property on each side of the river channel enabled the property to be developed as it was raised out of the floodway. Before the sand was mined the entire valley could be a floodway in a large storm or series of storms.

 “I think that RCP has been very successful in creating an asset for the City of Santee and the surrounding communities,” Phelps said.

In fact, if the sand had never been removed to allow for development, entire communities such as Mission Valley, Grantville, Santee and Lakeside would not even exist. Among the other companies that have mined the sand in the past, RCP has contributed to the building of park land that is part of the San Diego River Conservancy’s dream of a contiguous trail from Cuyamaca’s headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.

RCP has made other contributions to the community, including the support of building sports facilities at many of the high schools in San Diego. Finch had been a high school athlete and Little League coach and recognized the importance of community involvement.

For many years, RCP Block & Brock has held a toy, food and monetary drive during the holidays.

“Through the generosity of our employees, customers and vendors we have been able to lend support to many local agencies and charities,” Olsen said.

The company itself also sponsors the annual Kids News Day, benefiting Rady Children’s Hospital and many events for the Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA.

Not only does RCP manufacture and resell high quality products that are used to build schools, commercial projects, government facilities, churches, the company also provides the same products to homeowners. The company is also one of Santee’s largest employers.

“We at RCP have been so fortunate over the 67 years since our founding and it is part of our culture as a company to give back to the community,” Olsen said.

Olsen explained that RCP would continue to complete the Reclamation Plan on the Walker property.

 “Our time is coming to an end in the next few years on the Walker property, but we are very proud of being a part of what will continue to be an asset to the City of Santee. We will still maintain a presence in and remain active in the Santee Community with our store location on Magnolia Avenue,” Olsen said.

For more information about RCP’s history and retail outlets, go to hwww.rcpblock.com. 

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