Country Estates pioneer ‘revisits’ San Vicente and Barona valleys in new book
Charles R. “Chuck” LeMenager came here in 1970 to help Ray Watt plan and develop San Diego Country Estates. He liked Ramona and how the new community developed so well that he’s stayed and even wrote a historical trilogy about the region’s backcountry residents.
The three books, now expanded to four, cover history from the Barona Indians in the south to Julian miners in the northeast — and most of the country in between.
His latest book, titled “Off the Main Road — Revisited,” complements his earlier works, “Ramona and Round About” and “Julian City and Cuyamaca Country.”
The original edition of “Off the Main Road” came out in 1983 and earned an Institute of History Award from the San Diego Historical Society. In the new version, released in June, LeMenager included all that was in the first book in addition to 80 more pages and three decades of events that have occurred since.
It traces the history of San Vicente and Barona Valleys from pre-historic times through development of SDCE, Rancho San Vicente, Creekside and Barona Mesa. The Barona Indians’ heritage is covered from their Capitan Grande roots through their new era and affluence on the reservation that resulted from legalized gaming. Details of the devastating Cedar and Witch Creek fires of 2003 and 2007 are told.
While LeMenager’s long professional career was in business, most recently as a planning and land use consultant, he devoted a great deal of time to public service. He is a former mayor and councilman of the City of Santa Rosa, Calif., serving the city while he was an executive with the Fluor Corporation.
In 1966, newly elected Governor Ronald Reagan invited him to join the Reagan administration as California director of housing and community development.
“That was one of the most interesting jobs I’ve had,” said LeMenager. “But when Watt invited me to come and actually help create a large new community, I jumped at the opportunity. I regretfully left the Reagan administration and returned to the private sector.”
He added, “Selling such a new development as SDCE to the folks of Ramona was no easy matter, but our plan made sense, and the county approved it.”
LeMenager has continued to be active as a community volunteer. He has served Ramona on several San Diego County advisory committees, on the Ramona Municipal Water District Board of Directors and as an SDCE director for an aggregate of 10 years.
“Off the Main Road — Revisited” contains 247 pages, 93 illustrations and maps and can be found in local shops, the Guy B. Woodward Museum, the SDCE clubhouse, Unicorn Books and Gifts, and on Amazon.com.
The writer will be presenting programs and signing copies of his books at several local groups during the coming months starting with the Ramona Rotary Club on Sept. 10 and Kiwanis Club of Ramona on Sept. 14. Both service clubs meet in Ramona Valley Grill, Rotary from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Kiwanis from 7 to 8:30 a.m. Saturdays.
- R.A. Watt, San Diego Country Estates Founder
- Writers to connect with readers on Authors Day
- Barona Powwow set for this weekend
- Museum establishes Voices of Pioneer Women Book Club
- Time for truce in Country Estates
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