John and Arvie Degenfelder’s efforts to garner support for historical designation of Old Survey 97 headed down a different route when presented to the Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG).
Armed with photos and maps of Old Survey 97, the Degenfelders were ready to relate nearly 200 years worth of historical references to the notable trail, but were sidetracked when planning group members questioned the impact to property rights.
The Degenfelders are hoping the San Diego Historic Site Board will nominate the former Native American trail and stagecoach route as a historical site. They are meeting with local groups to receive letters of support and have obtained endorsements from the Citizens Advisory Committee of the San Dieguito River Park and the Joint Powers Authority for the San Dieguito River Park. Seeking the support of the RCPG, the Degenfelders gave their presentation at the group’s meeting in May.
Old Survey 97 begins at the southern edge of San Pasqual Valley, runs in a southeast direction switch backing along hills and ridges adjacent to a canyon, and climbs out of the valley until reaching the top of the ridges and the Santa Maria Valley, according to documentation. The Old Survey Road is accessed at its northern end by Bandy Canyon Road in San Pasqual Valley and at its southern end from Rangeland Road in Ramona.
The Degenfelders said the road is about six and a half miles long. Access to a portion of the road that was on the Gildred Ranch became available after the San Diego County Department of Parks and Recreation bought the Gildred Ranch along with other ranches to create the Ramona Grasslands, Arvie Degenfelder said.
Calling the trail’s view of San Pasqual Valley absolutely stunning, Arvie Degenfelder said, “Where else in California will you find something so undisturbed?”
Degenfelder said she and her husband began dreaming about recognition for Old Survey 97 as a historical site in 1992. The Ramona Trails Association commissioned historian Stephen Van Wormer to prepare an assessment of the old road to present to the San Diego Historic Site Board.
Van Wormer’s assessment dates the trail’s use back to 1820. It was declared the first public road in San Diego County by the board of supervisors in 1854 but was abandoned by the county in 1910, states Van Wormer’s report. The actual tracks of the road varied over time. It served as the main road to the gold fields in Julian during the early 1870s and as the road linking Ramona to Escondido and Northern San Diego County in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“We have a chance to freeze it in time and that’s an incredible opportunity,” Arvie Degenfelder told the planning group.
After Arvie Degenfelder commented that about five families in the Bandy Canyon area use the old road to access their homes, planning group members wondered if the historical designation would prevent those homeowners from paving the dirt road. John Degenfelder said it would not impact the road for those homeowners but would allow a sign to be placed, marking the location of the historical route.
With the potential opportunity for the trail to be used by hikers, bicyclists and equestrians, RCPG members voiced concerns about people crossing private property. Arvie Degenfelder said 90 percent of the trail is on county-owned land. She said a couple of property owners are in full support of the historical designation.
Planning group member Dennis Grimes said the historical significance is great, but he is worried that such designation could restrict property owners if they wanted to put in a road that crosses the trail.
“Property owners need to be fully apprised of their property rights,” he said.
Group member Paul Stykel suggested that property owners be notified before RCPG voted to support the idea of historical designation.
RCPG member Angus Tobiason said there is a similar historically-designated route off Mussey Grade Road, and Salvation Army, which owns a camp there, was not allowed to use the road for emergencies. Planning group member Katherine L. Finley asked whether Old Survey 97 would connect to trails in the San Dieguito River Park. Arvie Degenfelder said that is a possibility, but she emphasized that all they were asking for was a letter of support to nominate Old Survey 97 as a historical site.
After a motion to give the RCPG’s support was amended several times, the planning group finally agreed “to support nomination of Old Survey 97 for a historic site as it applies to the purview of the RCPG.” The motion passed with nine “yes” votes, one no vote by Stykel, and two abstentions from Finley and Tobiason. RCPG Chair Chris Anderson stepped down because of a conflict of interest, and members Matt Deskovick and Torry Brean were absent.