Help preserve Bernardo Mountain

Act before September 1 to help preserve our disappearing natural heritage

provided by San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy


ernardo Mountain, with an elevation of 1,150 feet, looms on the north side of Lake Hodges, within Escondido city boundaries. A mile west of I-15, it is seen by the thousands of people traveling north on I-15 everyday, and is a major natural feature in the viewshed of hundreds of homes in Escondido and Rancho Bernardo. It is also an important natural area in the 55-mile-long San Dieguito River Park.

    The whole mountain is roughly 400 acres. The northeastern quarter is developed. The southwestern quarter has been acquired as open space. That leaves about 232 acres. Acquiring the subject 232 acres would result in preservation of more than three-quarters of Bernardo Mountain as open space.

Why Bernardo Mountain should be preserved


    The steep slopes of the 220 acres are covered with two different kinds of plant community: chaparral and inland sage scrub. Along the eastern boundary of the property is Felicita Creek, which supports a rich riparian/southern oak woodland community, and flows into Lake Hodges.

    A number of interesting and important animals can be found here, including mule deer, bobcats, an occasional ringtail cat, coyotes, and so forth – at least 14 different kinds of mammals. Also, the high number of kinds and the high number of individual birds – at least 55 species and more than 600 individuals – indicates that this is a healthy, rich natural environment that should be protected, within the boundaries of a natural open space, the San Dieguito River Park.

    Threatened or protected species found here include golden eagle, white-tailed kite, and ringtail cat.

    The combination of steep terrain, extensive ravines and rock outcrops, the varied shrubby scrub vegetation, and the beautiful riparian woodland, all close to open country, make this a very important habitat area for a number of animals and plants. It completes and complements the existing open space around Lake Hodges, designated as a Globally Significant Birding Area. The Habitat Planning Programs of San Diego County and Escondido both recognize this Bernardo Mountain land as important habitat.

The current development plan


    There is an existing approved plan for 82 units on about 50 acres. There is a pending proposal to substitute 42 units for the 82, on what is called Phase I. It is unclear what the developer plans for Phase II.

    Two properties are involved, one of 220 acres on the mountain, and a second to the north that provides access to Via Rancho Parkway.

    However, there a willing seller – and there is a purchase agreement!

    The purchase price is $4.1 million. $3.7 million has been put together through a combination of monies from various local and state agency grants, and private loans. The local community, through the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, must raise $500,000, by September 1, to ensure this funding.

    A consortium of groups and agencies, including The Nature Conservancy, the City of Escondido, the San Dieguito River Park, and the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, are working together to acquire this land. Most major environmental groups support the acquisition, as do many neighbors to the mountain.

The impact of development


    Phase I is mainly covered in chaparral, which would be completely destroyed by development, as would any remaining natural areas in the property connecting to Via Rancho Parkway. The plans for Phase II (182 acres) are unclear. Even if it were to be left as open space, the quality of the wildlife habitat there would be degraded, as more people and their activities and pets move into the area. Home landscaping usually includes nonnative plants, and adds fertilizer and runoff, which will change downstream areas, thereby changing the kinds of animals and plants occupying the area in the future. Impacts of construction cause loss of habitat, and siltation in the creek, which drains into Lake Hodges. If Phase II were developed, up to 25% of the 182 acres could be developed.

How you can help


    $500,000 must be raised from the community to make this deal happen. The local fundraising reflects the value put on open space by the local neighbors, and helps in acquiring large grants from other foundations and agencies.

    So, tell your friends and neighbors. Attend information events in your neighborhood. Make a generous donation, tax deductible, to the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy. Call the Conservancy at 858-755-6956 for details on how you can help, and where local events are to be held. Working together, we can accomplish the acquisition of Bernardo Mountain.

Making the goal

    Since the campaign started July 1, more that $150,000 has been raised towards the $500,000 in community funds needed to purchase the remaining undeveloped parts of Bernardo Mountain!

    Together we can make it happen!

    San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, PO Box 89, Del Mar, CA 92014; 858-755-6956; Fax 858-356-4222