Anza-Borrego park acquires wetland

Public celebration set for November

provided by Anza-Borrego Foundation

fter a two-and-a-half year fund-raising effort by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Anza-Borrego Foundation, the park is the new owner of a rare wetland and riparian habitat," announced Colorado Desert District Superintendent David Van Cleve. Escrow closed on May 20, 1998, on 1,421.06 acres, known as Sentenac Canyon and Cienega, located near the historic Scissors Crossing, the intersection of State Scenic Highway 78 and County S2. Van Cleve expressed his thanks to the Foundation and past President Diana Lindsay for spearheading the fund raising drive. "If the Foundation hadn't stepped in, we never would have raised the necessary funds within the given time," added Van Cleve.

The purchase price for the property, home to threatened and endangered plant and animal species, amounted to $2,550,000. Of this amount, $1,398,000 was funded from state resources including the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Grant program, the River Parkway Bond Act (Proposition 204), and the Habitat Conservation Fund. Major funding was also provided by a $880,000 grant from the Transportation Enhancement Activities program. An additional $100,000 was awarded to the Anza-Borrego Foundation by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through its competitive grant program. The balance of approximately $172,000 was raised by the Foundation from local and regional foundations as well as individual donors.

"To commemorate this valuable addition to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park," announced Foundation President Ralph Singer, "the Anza-Borrego Foundation and park will host a "Sentenac Celebration," in conjunction with the annual "Taste of Borrego" event scheduled next fall on Saturday and Sunday, November 20 and 21." ABF volunteers and Park staff will conduct tours of the Sentenac Cienega and Canyon area.

The bumpy road to acquisition of this valuable wetland riparian habitat began in November of 1993. At that time, the owners of the Rancho San Felipe, Tom and Mary Lou Edwards, approached the park and the Foundation about selling portions of their land. After several meetings, it was determined the time wasn't "ripe." "The Park and the Foundation needed to put together a funding plan," stated Van Cleve, "and the Edwards needed to decide if they could wait for what might be years until the state and the Foundation raised the funds for a viable offer."

Then in November 1995 the owners were still willing to sell, so the Parks Dept. applied for a $880,000 Transportation Enhancement Activities (TEA) grant. "We were told the chances of this project being awarded a TEA grant were next to nil," reports ABF Manager Linda Nordstrand, "but ABF and park staff dug inwe refused to accept anything but success."

However, one important requirement remained. "We were literally given a month to come up with a $120,000 match for the grant," explained Nordstrand. "A commitment letter for that amount was required for the grant package due in mid-December."

Thankfully, one of ABF's major donors stepped forward to gift $75,000 to the Foundation and commit another $45,000 if it couldn't be raised from other sources (it was). "If it hadn't been for this one donor, who prefers to remain anonymous, the project would never have gotten off the ground," added Singer.

Finally, in September of 1996, the project, recommended by the San Diego Association of Government (SANDAG) and placed on the statewide projects list, was approved by the California Transportation Commission for the full $880,000 grant. The TEA grant's recognition of the Sentenac project as one of regional and statewide significance was critical in leveraging additional funds for the project.

The Sentenac acquisition project involved hundreds of letters and phone calls and the crucial support of 15 environmental groups including the Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and the Bighorn Institute. Numerous grant applications were submitted to regional foundations, a 12-minute video was produced, visits were made to state legislators and county supervisors, and many, many donations were received from foundation members and park friends. "Throughout it all," concluded Singer, "it was the cooperation of all parties the Edwards, their agent, Kevin Knowles, Anza-Borrego park staff, San Diego and Sacramento park officials, executive staff at the Resources Agency, ABF and park volunteers and friends that made it work. This project truly exemplifies what private-public partnerships can accomplish."

  The Anza-Borrego Foundation is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that acquires land for the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park through purchases from willing sellers or by donation. For further information call 760-767-0446 or write P.O. Box 2001, Borrego Springs, CA 92004