Daley Ranch, Escondido, CA

The Daley Ranch is a 3,0441 acre property in the hills of northeastern Escondido that will be preserved as open space forever. It comprises essentially the entire northern part of Escondido, everything above Dixon Reservoir with two small excepted enclaves, one-seventh2 the entire land mass of Escondido! Recreational uses such as hiking, biking and horse riding will be allowed.

Daley Ranch has more than 20 miles of multiuse (hiking, biking and horse riding) trails, as well as a rustic ranch house built in 1927. There are 7 trails, from the 1.4 mile Caballo Trail to the 5.5 mile Central Valley Loop Trail. A loop around the entire property is 12.2 miles on my bicycle odometer and took me 3 hours. Including an excursion to the Dixon Lake refreshment stand makes the trip 13.8 miles with a total time of just under 4 hours. A trail map is available at both entrances, as well as at Dixon Lake, although they have been out at the northwestern entrance at times.

Daley Ranch opened to the public on 26 April 1997, and a master plan for it was approved by the Escondido City Council on 2 September 1998. Opening Day Celebration activities were given on the Daley Ranch section of the City of Escondido's webpage. Articles on the opening appeared in the SD Union-Tribune, 4/27/97, B1, B3; and North County Times, 4/27/97, B6.

Map of Daley Ranch

Directions to Entrances
Current Status and Master Plan
Background on Daley Ranch
Background on the Purchase of Daley Ranch

Greg Shorts' Daley Ranch Biking Pages

Directions to Entrances

The main entrance is at the southernmost part of the property, just north of Lake Dixon at the top of La Honda Drive. The entrance to the northernmost part of the property is along Cougar Pass Road, 0.5 mile south of Alps Way. Cougar Pass Road is a dirt road, but suitable for normal vehicles. Coming from Escondido, go north on Broadway to Cougar Pass Road. Coming from Fallbrook, take the Deer Springs/Mountain Meadow exit on I-15, go east along Mountain Meadow Road and Mountain Glen Way to Cougar Pass Road.

Current Status and Master Plan

The master plan was finally approved by the Escondido City Council by a 3-2 vote on 2 September 1998, one year after the original due date. Highlights:

The master plan will be reviewed in 5 years.

Previous information that probably has not been changed:

Daley Ranch attracts about 200 people on both Saturdays and Sundays, according to unofficial city estimates. (SDUT 6/26/97, B1.) Mountain biking is the most popular use by far, followed by hiking and horse riding.

The SDUT published a great pull-out section in Night & Day on 6/26/97, of which only the brief introductory words to the article are on their web site. The printed version has pictures, a topo map with trails shows, a location map and a description with pictures of the flora and fauna. A detailed trail description and rating by Michael Franklin was also printed. I'll enquire as to whether I can reproduce here the information not on their web site.

On October 11, 1997, volunteers, including members of the Escondido Sunrise Rotary Club and teenagers from San Pasqual High School, erected small wooden signs, set in concrete, to identify 20 kinds of plants, including laurel sumac, arroyo willow and poison oak. James Dillane, a science teacher at Escondido's L.R. Green School, helped identify the marked plants which are along one mile of the trail from the Dixon Lake parking lot.

Mr. Dillane has added about 100 species of plants to a previous list of 240 plants at the preserve.

Background on Daley Ranch

25-year-old Robert Daley settled the property in 1869, after emigrating from England and living in San Francisco and Washington. He built a small log cabin and filed a claim for the first 1,600 acres in 1874. He turned it into a successful horse and cattle ranch.

When Daley died in 1916, the remaining family moved to Jamul and turned the ranch into a dairy operation.

The rustic redwood ranch house was built in 1927 (or 1928, depending on source) and used as a summer retreat by the Daley family. It is located about a mile from the south entrance.

The Daleys sold the ranch to Mobil Oil in the 1980s, who in turn sold it to Shea Homes in the 1990s.

Background on the Purchase of Daley Ranch

Daniel J McGrath has researched and written up a paper on Escondido's purchase of Daley Ranch with a wealth of references. His paper contains far more information that my brief summary below.

The purchase was finally approved on December 11, 1996.

As part of the purchase deal, the ranch will become a "mitigation bank" - an untouched area reserved to make up for adverse impacts to natural habitat elsewhere in the city. Developers can trade destruction of natural habitat elsewhere by "purchasing" from Escondido land in this mitigation bank that will then be "saved forever". The city will charge $4,000-$18,000 per acre preserved.

Because of the designation as a mitigation bank, the state Department of Fish and Game actually controls the uses of the property.

The story behind this purchase is that Shea Homes, the owner of Daley Ranch and 1,700 "sewer futures", hookup rights needed for development, was having trouble developing it. They originally had plans for 3,263 residential units on the property, but never gained final city approval for more than about 1,700.

Escondido separately wanted to buy back 2,700 sewer futures that it sold in 1983 that were appreciating at 10% per year that represented a growing debt to the city. The city promised to sell bonds to redeem Shea's futures while paying $2.5 million for Daley Ranch. It paid $18.5 million for the sewer futures. Those sewer futures were originally sold to Shea in 1983 in order to raise money to expand the city's sewer system. Buyers could either use the connection rights, or get on a waiting list at City Hall to get reimbursed.

The Trust for Public Land, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group, negotiated the land deal. Stone & Youngberg helped the city issue the bonds for the purchase. Both organizations donated $7,000 combined to provide refreshments, live music and free shuttle service for the grand opening.

Sources: SD Union-Tribune, 2/27/97, B4; 4/17/97, B1, B4; 4/27/97, B3; North County Times 4/27/97, B6; NCT 9/3/98, B5.

 1 The acreage of Daley Ranch is listed as 3,013; 3,030; 3,044; 3,050; or 3,058 acre, depending on which day of the SD Union-Tribune or North County Times you read.
 2 Escondido's acreage is listed as 21,774 on their web page. Hence no matter which number you use for the acreage of Daley Ranch, you get 0.14 = 1/7, not the 1/5 listed in the SD Union-Tribune on 2/28/97, B2.

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Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Tom Chester.
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Last update: 12 September 1998