Fallbrook Land Conservancy

The Fallbrook Land Conservancy (FLC; 760-728-0889) is a private non-profit corporation formed in 1988 with the goal of preserving some of the natural areas of Fallbrook. In 1991 it branched out to include major tree-planting efforts, and in 1999 the Trails Committee was formed. The FLC has achieved considerable success in its goals. See also their official webpage.

The FLC owns and manages over 200 acres of conservation land in the Fallbrook area. The land is primarily preserved for its habitat. Some of the preserves have trails and benches for the public to enjoy them.

The Preserves

Save Our Forest group
Trails Committee

The Preserves

Engel Family Preserve

In 1998, Rodger Engel, a Fallbrook physician, donated a 10 acre parcel on Sumac Road which has live oak trees, a prominent rock outcropping, and panoramic views of the I-15 corridor and Palomar Mountain.

Heller's Bend Preserve

Acquired in 1997, this 27 acre preserve is a former avocado and citrus orchard. It is open to visitors on foot, and features a running stream, rolling hills, and a great view from the top of the road.

In January and February 1998, AmeriCorps teams chopped down 60 avocado and citrus trees to allow native oaks to reclaim the land, and rebuilt a fence.

The preserve is on the southwest side of Heller's Bend Road, which meets S. Mission immediately south of the Via Monserate junction. This is along the old route of highway 395 along Ostrich Creek from 1928 to 1949, before the hillside was cut to straighten out Mission Road.

The main road is 0.5 mile long to the top, an altitude gain of ~200', with several side roads that can also be explored, for a total hike of 1.5 miles.

Los Jilgueros Preserve

Acquired in 1990, the Los Jilgueros Preserve is a 46 acre preserve just north of Fallbrook High School on the east side of Mission Road. Los Jilgueros (pronounced "heel-gyer-os") is Spanish for "linnet" or house finch. The Preserve is open to the public for jogging, dog walking, or just relaxing. Occasional "star parties" are held in the evening. See map.

The preserve has a stream, two ponds, a 1.5 mile level loop trail, 400 newly planted native oaks, sycamores and alders, and a demonstration garden. The name comes from an 1889 map identifying the stream as "Arroyo de los Jilgueros".

There are three entrances to the Preserve, two of which are currently affected by the Mission Road construction. A new northern entrance is provided by a 6' easement parallel to the Fallbrook Village Condos from Peppertree Lane. The other entrances are from S. Mission Road, and may at times be blocked by Mission Road construction. The north entrance is about halfway between Rockycrest Road, the entrance to the museums, and the entrance to the Airpark. This entrance is marked by a sign, but has only limited parking parallel to Mission Road. The south entrance is immediately north of the new construction for the Peppertree Homes, which leads to a parking area.

The Preserve was the farm of Arthur Anthony in the 1920s, who constructed the small dams along the stream to store water for irrigation. In 1990, the Fallbrook Real Estate Company donated the land to the Conservancy.

The ponds dry up during the summer. One is at the northeast corner, just to the northeast of the trail. The other pond is to the south, west of the east branch of the trail.

The north part of the preserve contains a bronze sculpture of an eagle on an 8' pole, titled "Always Aspiring", which commemorates the memory of Pamela Van Der Linden, the owner of the Fallbrook Real Estate Company. Just to the west is a firescape demonstration garden containing over 100 types of fire and drought resistant plants, with many plants identified by labels.

The Preserve is a little less peaceful these days, since construction for Phase 1 of the Peppertree Homes has begun. The Peppertree Homes project wraps around the Preserve, and will eventually build 265 upscale homes on 162 acres. Phase 1 will build 50 homes, with the first 10 homes and 2 model homes finished by October 1997. The Homes project existed long before the Preserve came into existence, being approved by county planning officials in 1978!

Fortunately, there will be a fence that will separate the Preserve from the homes. At issue still is whether the Homes project will grant an easement to the Conservancy to allow continued use of the current southern entrance to the Preserve. The Homes project hopes to contribute financially to the Conservancy after the homes begin to sell.

Sources: Ent, 4/24/97, A3; NCT 5/13/97, B1, B4; VN 3/19/98, 26.

Firescape Demonstration Garden

The Firescape Demonstration Garden covers a half acre in the northwest corner of the Los Jilgueros Preserve, and is the second Firescape Garden ever built in California.

The Firescape Garden owes its existence to a request from the North County Fire Department, who said that some form of a fire safety belt had to be used on the northern border of the preserve to protect the neighboring condominium complex. This was a quite reasonable suggestion, since fire is a natural occurrence in Southern California, with an average spot burning an average of once every 20 years. (See also Fire Danger in Local Area.) The Fire Department suggested mowing the area, maintaining a green groundcover, or "something else".

Roger Boddaert liked the "something else" concept. He visited the first Firescape Garden ever built, in Santa Barbara, which contains 250 different species on three-quarters acre. That garden was built in the 1970s after a disastrous fire there. Roger then sold the concept to the board of the Land Conservancy.

Roger put together a team of people who designed the Garden. The team included Roger, a Landscape Designer; John Dahl, a Landscape Architect; Jim Perna, a Certified Nurseryman; and Shogo Yamaguchi, a retired botanist. Fallbrook National Bank, Major Market, the Fallbrook Firefighters' Association, the Angel Society of Fallbrook, Farmers Insurance, and grant monies supplied the funds, and volunteers supplied the labor.

The firescape garden became a reality in early 1995, and now features over 100 different species of labeled plants. John Dahl drew up the design, installed the irrigation, bought the plants, and directed the planting. (John will also take the lead in the landscaping along S. Mission Rd. that will occur once the road is complete, perhaps summer 2000.)

A "firescape" is a "fire-resistant landscape". A typical firescape has four zones:

The Firescape Garden is a model of how Southern Californians can landscape around their homes with plants that provide safety from fires, require low maintenance, and at the same time blend in with the natural environment.

After the Fallbrook Firescape Garden was established, a small firescape garden was established at Quail Botanical Gardens, and one is under construction in the Elfin Forest area, the latter as a result of the Harmony Grove fire.

Sources: Roger Boddaert; Land Conservancy literature; SDUT, ??, II-1; and 2 other unidentified newspaper articles, probably from the Enterprise.

The Airpark picture on Joe Kennedy's Fallbrook Community Airpark shows the pond and firescape garden area at the north end of the Preserve.

Monserate Mountain

Over 225 acres of south Monserate Mountain, known as the Heights of Pala Mesa, were acquired in November 2000 for habitat preservation and recreation. This was an eagerly-anticipated purchase by the large number of people who have enjoyed traveling on this land for exercise, for the views, or for the native plants and animals.

A convenient access point from most of Fallbrook is to take Stewart Canyon Road east from Old Highway 395 just south of Reche Road, and immediately turn right on Pankey Road. Park anyplace between Stewart Canyon Road and Pala Mesa Heights Drive. A dirt road leads east from Pankey Road to the top of this portion of Monserate Mountain at 1567'.

The Preserve was acquired from Heights of Pala Mesa LLC, a partnership headed by Vince Ross who had planned to built houses there after holding the land for over 20 years. In an act of responsible citizenship, the partnership transferred the property to the Conservancy to be used as a mitigation bank. It took almost four years to obtain all the agency (state Department of Fish and Game; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and county approvals to set this up.

A mitigation bank is used by developers of environmentally sensitive land elsewhere, who can receive permission for development on those lands by purchasing equivalently-sensitive land in this parcel. This is a win-win situation, since it is much more important to preserve large parcels of land for habitat than scattered small parcels. Because of the designation as a mitigation bank, the state Department of Fish and Game actually controls the uses of the property.

This is the first mitigation bank in Fallbrook. This land is primarily coastal sage, home to many sensitive plants and animals such as the Rainbow Manzanita and the California Gnatcatcher. Other banks exist in Oceanside, Escondido and San Marcos.

The first use of this bank was the purchase of 6.3 acres of coastal sage on 9/10/00 for $40,950 (to Heights of Pala Mesa LLC) plus a $5,040 one-time management fee to the FLC by developers of a San Marcos housing project, Karel and Pete DeJong. This first purchase was the trigger for the transfer of the land to the FLC.

Sources: SDUT 11/16/00 NI1, 3; Daley Ranch; Wallace Tucker email of 11/18/00.

Rock Mountain

The FLC first acquired the south-facing part of Rock Mountain (58 acres) in 1999, which was augmented by the rest of it (36 acres) in 2000. The 2000 purchase was through a conservation loan from the Eddy Foundation. The loan will be repaid by selling 1-2 parcels at the foot of the mountain.

Rock Mountain is located on Sandia Creek Drive in the De Luz area just north of the Santa Margarita River. A hiking trail will eventually lead to the top.

Save Our Forest Group

The Fallbrook Land Conservancy's Save Our Forest group has a goal of planting 2,000 trees by the year 2,000.

Fallbrook is extremely fortunate in having such an organization. There are only two other similar organizations in all of San Diego County:

Roger Boddaert helped found Fallbrook's group in 1991, when ancient oak trees were threatened for removal on Live Oak Park Road. More than 3,500 protest signatures were collected and they ended up saving 20 trees. They then planted 135 more along that road and got the speed limit on the road reduced.

Roger was honored by the National Arbor Day Foundation with its Lawrence Enerson Award, a national honor presented annually to an individual "whose life's work exemplifies commitment to tree planting and conservation in community improvement." Fallbrook's group has also received an award from the International Society of Arboriculture for its work with trees in Fallbrook.

The first tree-planting project, Phase I, was in 1991, when 750 volunteers planted 435 trees at the Los Jilgueros Preserve.

Live Oak Park was saved by this group when the county threatened to close it in the mid-1990's due to budget problems. More than 5,000 signatures were collected to keep it open, and a coalition was formed to help maintain the park.

Phase II of tree planting was in February and March 1997. On March 2, 1997, ~150 people, led by 25 trained Tree Captains, planted 120 trees in 4 big planting areas, bringing the total planted in this phase to 346. In only 3 weeks young people of Americorps have planted 118 trees in the town area of Fallbrook and helped with the planting of 100 trees at the Elementary Schools to commemorate the 100th birthday of Parent Teachers Association.

As of July 17, 1997, 1,645 trees have been planted in Fallbrook through this group's efforts.

The 3rd Annual Tree Festival planting effort was on March 8, 1998, when 500 trumpet vines were planted at the base of chain-link fences along the Pico Promenade stream banks, the FUESD Administration Building and other locations.

A group of young Americorps workers had previously dug the 500 holes and placed the potted vines in them. Pardee Nurseries in Bonsall donated 1,000 of the vines with brilliant yellow and orange flowers, with the remaining 500 given to San Diego area conservation groups for other towns. Kellogg's of Carson donated the Gro-mulch used for the planting, thanks to efforts of Irv McDaniel.

As of 25 February 1999, 2,250 trees have been planted.

The 4th annual Tree Planting Festival was held on March 13, 1999, Saturday.

For comparison, the county-wide budget for planting trees in 1993 would cover the costs of planting just 334 trees! Further, American Forests, a nonprofit tree-conservation group based in Washington, D.C., estimated that for every four trees removed in a U.S. city due to death or disease, only one is replaced. In the city of San Diego, 1968 was the last year any money at all was budgeted for new street-tree plantings, and 1974 was the last year for money for replacement trees.

The Fallbrook group has been so successful that they developed a Treescape Community Plan Action Kit for other communities to learn how to accomplish similar feats. An educational video that has received high acclaim has also been produced.

The group has also been featured on the cable TV program Inside North County with Eric Larson shown on Cable 3 on March 22 and 23, and April 12 and 13, 1999. The program will repeat throughout the year on Cable 3, perhaps once a month on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. and on Tuesdays at 5:25 p.m. The program features:

The current project is called Project 2000, to plant 2,000 native oaks and sycamores along the I-15 freeway at Fallbrook. No one is betting against this project!

As of 11/18/99, over 2,300 trees have been planted.

For information about the Save Our Forests group, write P.O. Box 1806, Fallbrook, CA 92088, or call Roger at 760-728-4297.

Sources: Ent 3/6/97, A6; 7/17/97, A5; SDUT 6/29/97, H1, H4, H5; FBVN 2/12/98, 1; VN 3/12/98, 7; NCT 11/20/98, B2; Roger Boddaert personal communications 2/26/99, 3/20/99; VN 11/18/99, 2; W. Tucker email 3/1/00.

Trails Committee

The Trails Committee was formed in 1999 to preserve hiking and riding trails in the Fallbrook area. In 2000, their main focus is on the public trails in the Santa Margarita basin, including the Santa Margarita River Trail and the connecting trails that pass through private property.

The mission of the Trails Committee is:

The first neighborhood trail agreement was completed in September 2000.

The Trails Committee joined with San Diego State University's Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve to train 20 docents so that the reserve could be opened to public hiking and horseback-riding educational tours. The first docent class graduated in August 2000. For more information, or to schedule a tour, see Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

One outgrowth of the docent training class was the decision to prepare a Pocket Field Guide to Plants & Wildlife of Fallbrook and San Diego. This brochure is an illustrated guide to the birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles and plants of the Fallbrook area. The illustrations were drawn by Fallbrook artists Gamini Ratnavira, Toni Inman and Kathleen Sofia Gee.

For more information about the Trails Committee, contact Donna and Al Gebhart at 760-731-9441, or email Jane Comella (jcomella@roadrunner.com) or Carolyn Major (cdmajor@aol.com). See also Trail Organizations In San Diego County.

Sources: VN 4/20/00, A3; VN Equestrian Quarterly Fall 2000, 3, 8.

Go to Fallbrook Information Overview

Copyright © 1997-2000 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 21 November 2000 (email addresses updated on 18 July 2009)