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Environment

New Trails In Rancho Peñasquitos Help Preserve San Diego's Landscape

This image shows parts of the new trails in red, yellow and blue, which passes under Carmel Valley Road. Red shows part of the trail completed by park rangers and volunteers by late December. Yellow and blue sections were still in progress as of Dec. 28, 2014.
This image shows parts of the new trails in red, yellow and blue, which passes under Carmel Valley Road. Red shows part of the trail completed by park rangers and volunteers by late December. Yellow and blue sections were still in progress as of Dec. 28, 2014.
New Trails In Rancho Peñasquitos Help Preserve San Diego's Landscape
New Trails In Rancho Peñasquitos Help Preserve San Diego's Landscape
The new trails increase San Diegans' access to nature in Rancho Peñasquitos but also help preserve the region's sensitive habitats.

At Black Mountain Open Space Park, Rancho Peñasquitos resident Rod Simmons looks out over a new set of hiking and biking trails that he helped create.

"Every time I come out here, there’s people coming out here and they're just like, 'Oh, my God, I didn’t know this was here,' " the mountain biking enthusiast said.

For the past few months, Simmons worked with San Diego park rangers and nearly 200 volunteers to construct two new trails for around $5,000. The Lilac Canyon and Ahwee trails total 1½ miles, circle around Black Mountain and link to a network of trails that stretch to Del Mar.

Simmons, who chairs the Black Mountain Citizens Advisory Committee and sits on the Rancho Peñasquitos Planning Board, said the paths let San Diegans enjoy the area’s natural resources but are part of a program that actually helps preserve the area.

"Having a good trails plan, you can manage the traffic in the open space," he said. “If you didn’t have a plan, people would go — humans like to explore, and they’re gonna go in there and they’re gonna go everywhere. And their dog's gonna be off leash chasing critters and doing all sorts of things you don't want to happen."

A few minutes later, a volunteer botanist for the San Diego Natural History Museum pedaled up on his mountain bike to conduct a regular survey of the area's plants. Jerry Green said he explored the paths when they were first completed last month to make sure they didn't disrupt any sensitive vegetation.

"So I'm looking for are there other new plants or endangered plants along the trail — there's not, it's perfectly OK," Green told Simmons.

Not everyone follows those rules, he said.

"But we had Boy Scouts put in trails right through really endangered species areas because no one knew," Green said.

Volunteer botanist Jerry Green speaks to Rod Simmons, who helped construct new trails at Black Mountain Open Space Park in Rancho Peñasquitos, March 30, 2015.
Tarryn Mento
Volunteer botanist Jerry Green speaks to Rod Simmons, who helped construct new trails at Black Mountain Open Space Park in Rancho Peñasquitos, March 30, 2015.

He was exploring the trails that day, camera in tow, searching for the seed pod of a chocolate lily.

The trail upgrades were part of the Black Mountain Open Space Natural Resource Management Plan, which took about five years to approve, Simmons said. San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey, who represents Rancho Peñasquitos, officially opened the trails at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday.

Chris Zirkle, deputy director of the city Park and Recreation's Open Space Division, said it's the first city-sponsored trail since the Camino Ruiz in 2010.

"But other trails have been built by developers," Zirkle said.

Still, he said the most significant aspect of the new trail was the large number of community members who contributed.

Zirkle said the city will next take up the Carmel Mountain/Del Mar Mesa Natural Resources Management Plan, which includes a trail system.

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