Manes & Trails: The Future of Cuyamaca

Rope and Spurs

State officials are looking at the future of the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park nearly a decade after the 2003 wildfires that devastated much of San Diego County.

As part of the State Park General Plan Update, a team of scientists, historians, archeologists, rangers, landscape architects, interpreters, maintenance staff, and others have gathered information and plan to share it as they introduce the general plan process and summarize the natural and cultural data they’ve collected.

In the coming months state officials will begin a series of public meetings to try to come up with a newer long-range plan for the 24,700-acre park. As what was once one of San Diego County’s most popular and scenic expanses of backcountry, the park is of great significance to all of us and as one of the only areas that allows for equestrian riding and camping in the mountains of San Diego, equestrians need to be aware and be present.

I attended several informational gatherings and Notice to Proceed (NOP) meetings regarding Cuyamaca State Park and the potential for a new camp and day use area planned for the south section of the park a few years back. Included in that proposal was a wonderful camp, day use parking, corrals, restrooms, equestrian facilities, landscaping, and more.

An attempt was made to replace Los Caballos Camp that was lost in the fires of 2003 and never reopened or replaced. The outcome these many years later was a day use, fee area—it used to be free—at the south end of the park and some corrals were installed at Green Valley Falls Camp. I appreciate those corrals very much. However, Green Valley almost didn’t open this year and was closed much of July due to potential budget constraints.

Nedra Martinez, the superintendent of the Palomar and Cuyamaca Rancho state parks, shared my concern earlier this year about Green Valley Camp not opening for the summer season. She told me she was waiting to hear about budget numbers. The camp did open in late July and Martinez told me it would be a shorter year for the camp to be available for use.

We all know that Palomar closed earlier this year due to state funding shortfalls along with 70 parks that closed across the state. Green Valley Falls is the only developed family/individual horse camp in that area and is $35 a night with corrals and other amenities.

As I consider the implications of the State Park system’s possible changes, state budget woes, and some history of our beautiful Cuyamaca, there are other details that cause some concern for me. As a trails advocate I have been present at many meetings, conferences, and gatherings, and what many might not know is that the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) runs through Cuyamaca State Park.

The California Riding and Hiking Trail was the first California legislated trail system established to create work for veterans returning from World War II in 1945. The CRHT legislation provides for the establishment of campgrounds every 20 miles along the route, but the trail was abandoned by the state a few years ago, again due to budget cuts. The trail was immediately adopted by the counties it crosses, including San Diego. I wonder if that legislation transfers at least within the State Park — most likely no, but I want to find out for certain.

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