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Busy Hands at Quarry Preserve

The Quarry Preserve, once heavily disturbed by granite mining operations, continues to improve in habitat value thanks to coordinated restoration efforts. The 11-acre site is located along a stretch of Escondido Creek at Harmony Grove Road and Country Club Drive. Volunteers and members of the land team returned to the Quarry Preserve on Dec. 3 for a second round of planting.

The recent restoration effort by a hard-working volunteer group included staff from Dixon Lake, friends, and neighbors. We planted two separate areas, which included the riparian and the coastal sage scrub zones. One after another, we planted one-gallon pots of California buckwheat, black sage, mule fat, and California sagebrush. We held off on planting Western sycamore and Fremont cottonwood in the riparian area because of heavy winds.

Our work adds to that of multiple restoration projects completed at the Quarry Preserve since the Conservancy bought it in 2002. Through the years, at numerous locations on this small and important piece of creek-side property, volunteers have donated their labor. In August, we organized a planting project of willow trees and mule fat donated by Habitat West, Inc.  Back in early 2018, students from Conway Elementary and Orange Glenn planted oak trees, removed invasive plants, and cleaned up litter with Conservancy staff as part of a project funded by The San Diego Foundation. And in 2015, SDG&E helped improve an embankment. The Quarry itself is home to at least two mitigation sites.

Returning sites like the Quarry Preserve to their pristine natural conditions yields multiple benefits. Invasive plants like thistle and black mustard flourish on disturbed soils and present an annual maintenance issue.  Planting natives, coupled with weed maintenance, is a quicker way to bring back our natural plant communities and give them a fighting chance against invasive plants, hopefully to create a healthier ecosystem for our wildlife. For example, by expanding the coastal sage scrub habitat we create further nesting opportunities for the federally-threatened coastal California gnatcatcher, a small bird species that is a jewel at our Quarry Preserve and sometimes serenades us with its distinct, catlike “mew” call.

Another rare bird, the least bell’s vireo, favors nesting in cottonwood and willow forests like the one along the creek at the Quarry Preserve. Listed as endangered by the federal and state government, the least Bell’s vireo was detected near the Quarry Preserve during a survey in 2014. As we work to improve nesting habitat for these species of concern, we tell ourselves, “Build it and they will come!”

Staff contact: Jamison Lauria, 707-499-0854 or jamison@escondidocreek.org