By Karen Brainard
A vacant 62-year-old house in the Ramona Grasslands Preserve built by Ramona Municipal Water District Director Darrell Beck and his father, Frank, may become a park ranger residence for the county-owned preserve.
Beck said he helped his father build the house during the summer between his junior and senior years in high school.
“It was called Eagle Ranch at the time,” said Beck. “I was just kind of learning the trade at the time.”
Trish Boaz, chief of resource management for the county’s Parks and Recreation Department, pointed out the boarded-up light yellow structure during the emergency evacuation route open house on Nov. 1. The dirt road proposed for evacuation passes by the house, which sits on a knoll with a view of the grasslands.
Beck recalled that the house was built of cement blocks.
For about 10 years after World War II, Beck said, cement block houses and buildings were popular. Although a little more expensive than frame to build, Beck said the blocks provide better installation.
He remembered clearing the pad for the house.
“It was an old Indian campsite,” he said, adding that metates and manos were among artifacts found.
The ranger residence is part of the county’s proposal for more public access to the preserve, said Boaz.
The knoll would serve as an overlook for the public and offer picnic tables, she said.
“Our plan is to open the public access in phases,” said Boaz.
The plan includes a staging area with visitor parking off Montecito Way, a ranger station/interpretive center, and renovating old rodeo grounds for a horse arena. The arena could be used to exercise horses, or to warm them up or cool them down before or after rides on non-motorized multi-use trails in the preserve, said Boaz.
Members of the Ramona Trails Association have been volunteering their time to clean and renovate the old arena. A dilapidated barn and house sitting at that site will be demolished, according to Boaz. That house, she said, has no foundation and is uninhabitable.
“There is no possible way to restore it. We would place an alternate structure,” she said.
The county parks proposal has received some resistance from wildlife agencies and residents who don’t want the plans to impact wildlife. Boaz said they are trying to find resolutions to the concerns that were received following the release of the mitigated negative declaration a year ago.
“We will revise the mitigated neg dec as appropriate,” she said.
Noting that she recently saw golden and bald eagles on the grasslands, Boaz said, “It’s just an incredible area for wildlife. We would not want to do anything to impact the viability of those species.”
She said the parks department anticipates taking the proposal to the board of supervisors for approval early next year. If approved, the first phase, which would include signage and mitigation, would begin in the summer to fall of 2013, she said.