Press enter to begin your search


Conservancy Corner: Protecting your pets and predators

August 14, Zoe Kessler, The Coast News

Within North San Diego County, predators roam the chaparral terrain. While it is a joy for humans to live so close to nature, we must remember that it is our responsibility to keep ourselves, pets, and livestock safe from these animals as, in doing so, we also keep them safe.

Predators are a vital part of our ecosystem and it is imperative that they stay within it. Our job is to implement safety measures to keep us and our beloved furry friends safe, such that humans and wildlife can thrive and coexist. Below is a breakdown of some common local predators, ways to deter them from entering your property, and how to prevent human-wildlife conflict.


Read the full article at The Coast News.

Conservancy continues to build Olivenhain’s LeoMar Preserve

July 15, Ann Van Leer, The Coast News

Good News! We now have two additional key habitat properties in escrow, one which will become part of the LeoMar Preserve in 2022, and the other we hope to save by the end of 2023!

The first property is 49 acres, located at the base of Paint Mountain. The Conservancy is excited to announce that we have reached agreement with the property owner to purchase the $2.47 million coastal sage scrub-rich property and are now in escrow. The second property, 96 acres, comes to the Conservancy as a transfer from our esteemed conservation partner, the Endangered Habitats Conservancy (EHC).


Read the full article at The Coast News.

Escondido Creek Conservancy summer camp showcases Elfin Forest

June 21, Shawn Styles, CBS8

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Habitat Conservancy held a workshop Tuesday for multiple agencies to learn more about animal tracks in the wild. The class was lead by the San Diego Tracking Team.


“You’ve got some bone fragments. This might have been a skull or something. It’s good for us to know the presence of certain animals because they might be indicators for other species health,” said Juan Troncoso, describing an Owl Pellet. Troncoso is a Conservation Manager for the Escondido Creek Conservancy.


Read the full article at CBS8.

Students practice conservation with Trout in the Classroom.

April 11, 2022, Karlene Chavis, CBS8

Escondido – Why not start them at a young age? It’s their planet, too.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy teamed up with a group of second graders out of North County to keep our ecosystem swimming along.

For years, the Trout in the Classroom program has allowed North County students to under the importance of clean water and a healthy ecosystem through raising rainbow trout. Their passion and knowledge could be the tools needed to restore a dying species in our county.


Read the full article at

Students release rainbow trout in an effort to bring them back.

March 17, 2022, M.G. Perez, KPBS

MIRAMAR – The Lake Miramar Reservoir has dozens of new fish that have been added to its waters.

They are rainbow trout released by some elementary school students with an assignment to help the environment.

Thursday morning, second-grade students from High Tech Elementary Mesa in Clairemont spent some final moments with the young rainbow trout they had studied and helped raise, before releasing them.


Read the full article at

The Conservancy Corner April: Superblooms: Monochrome landscapes come to life.

March 7, 2022, Aida Rodriguez, Coast News

ESCONDIDO – California deserts are known for their hot and dry climate, but every once in a while, they burst to life with vibrant blooms of yellow, purple, and pink. Even on hills of chaparral, shades of monochrome green and tan come to life, transforming into a vibrant landscape of lush, colorful blossoms….

Read the full article at Coast News online.

The Conservancy’s Stargazing Fundraiser Was Featured in Coast News.

March 4, 2022, Samantha Nelson, Coast News

ESCONDIDO – Local conservationists teamed up with area astronomers for a Monday night of stargazing, music and nature in an effort to promote an education program teaching children to appreciate and take care of their surrounding environment for future generations…

Read the full article at Coast News online.

The Conservancy was featured on CBS 8 San Diego.

February 28, 2022, Karlene Chavis, CBS8

ESCONDIDO –  Local news meteorologist Karlene Chavis attended the Conservany’s Stargazing fundraiser to support the Seed the Future campaign to support outdoor education. Miss Chavis and CBS 8 did a live weather report from the Conservancy’s Sardina Preserve and helped spread the word of the new campaign.

Conservancy stargazing event connects curious to land, sky.

March 4, 2022, Samantha Nelson, The Coast News

ESCONDIDO – Local conservationists teamed up with area astronomers for a Monday night of stargazing, music and nature in an effort to promote an education program teaching children to appreciate and take care of their surrounding environment for future generations.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy welcomed guests on Feb. 28 to Sardina Preserve — a 282-acre piece of land previously home to Mr. Paintball before the conservancy acquired the property in 2019 — for an evening of stargazing with the San Diego Astronomy Association.

For both organizations, it was one of the first events in the area since before the COVID-19 pandemic limited social gatherings for the last two years.

Read the full article from The Coast News.

Conservancy stargazing event connects curious to land, sky.

February 2, 2022, Aida Rodriguez, The Coast News

As winter spirit floats through the air the Toyon tree’s magical red fruit ripen on its reaching branches. If you look close enough as you hike or stroll along our San Diego chaparral communities, you will see bunches of bright red fruit and evergreen leaves.

Toyon trees (Heteromeles arbutifolia) are the state shrub of California and can be found in our local San Diego Coastal Sage Scrub all along the California coast.

Their beauty and prevalence in the Los Angeles Hills inspired the name of the American cinema hub, Hollywood. These trees are also commonly known as Christmas Berry and California Holly due to their bright red fruit and deep green leaves that resemble the iconic romantic Christmas decorating tradition.

Read the full article from The Coast News.

A front page clipping of the Del Mar Times

Escondido Creek Conservancy board member to retire after 18 years.

February 1, 2022, Luke Harold, Del Mar Times

After 18 years on the Escondido Creek Conservancy Board of Directors, Elfin Forest resident Jeffrey Swenerton announced in January that he will retire.

“We have a number of very talented educators on the board, and I feel it’s important to pass the torch on and let them assume the responsibility of the education program,” said Swernton, a longtime educator in the Del Mar Union School District before retiring from that field in 2004.

The conservancy is a 30-year-old land trust that oversees about 3,000 acres of wildlife habitat and provides annual outdoor education opportunities to thousands of youths and adults. It was established as more and more development began taking place throughout North County.

Read the full article in the Del Mar Times

Conservancy teacher wins EOTY award.

January 6, 2022

The Escondido Creek Conservancy’s Education Director, Simon Breen, was awarded Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s 2021 Educator of the Year. 

“I’m so honored to receive the Olivenhain Municipal Water District award for Educator of the Year,” said Breen. OMWD’s award program recognizes individuals and businesses making a significant, positive impact in our communities, the San Diego region, or the water industry. Simon was recognized for service to Escondido students and Elfin Forest visitors, and for leadership in forging a strong, cooperative, and respectful relationship between the two organizations.

“I wholeheartedly believe that all the problems in the world can be solved through education, and with the serious environmental threats we’re facing, environmental education is essential,” said Breen. “Not to mention, there’s a large body of research demonstrating a wide variety of benefits people receive from outdoor learning—from physical, emotional, and mental health benefits, and even improved academic performance. It’s so rewarding to connect people to nature and help them access those benefits, knowing that fostering an appreciation for nature will pay dividends for our planet for generations to come.”

Read the full article in the Escondido Times-Advocate.

Escondido Creek Conservancy receives grant for Boulder Outlook project

ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Creek Conservancy was recently awarded a $75,000 conditional matching grant from the Gerald T. & Inez Grant Parker Foundation to support the renovation of a building on the Mountain Meadow Preserve.

Read the full article in The Coast News.


The Escondido Creek Conservancy was awarded a $75,000 conditional “matching” grant from the Gerald T. & Inez Grant Parker Foundation, to support renovation of a building on the Mountain Meadow Preserve into the Conservancy’s office.  Named Boulder Outlook, the building will help the Conservancy become more sustainable as it will no longer pay rent. Boulder Outlook will also become the Conservancy’s home for land conservation activities, including volunteer training and educational seminars. Donations to the Boulder Outlook campaign help the Conservancy preserve more land.

Read the full article on

Earth 8 – Exploring the Hillsides of Encinitas.

“The main purpose of the LeoMar Preserve is to protect endangered species and their habitats so they can thrive in San Diego County….”

Read the full article CBS 8.

Efforts to revitalize the watershed began as far back as 2010

“A long-held vision of turning a concrete flood-control channel that cuts through the heart of Escondido into a linear park lined with landscaping, public art, foot paths and bike trails will soon begin to take shape, thanks to an $8.5 million state parks and recreation grant…”

Read the full article in the SD Union Tribune.


“One thing that unites our Nation is land: Americans strongly support saving the wild lands they love. Since 1991, The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has been doing just that in North San Diego County. The Conservancy announced today it has achieved national recognition for its work – joining a network of over 450 accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust.

“We are a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program. Our strength means special places–such as the LeoMar, Keithley, and Sardina preserves–will be protected forever, making the region an even greater place for us and our children,” said Conservancy Director of Finance and Operations Rita Petrekova, who led the multi-year accreditation effort…”

Read the full article on

A newspaper clipping with a color photo of a tiger swallowtail butterfly pollinating a flower. Pale yellow and black tiger stripes line the wings with a little blue dot down at the base of the wing.

Wildlife Photo in the Coast News: Tiger Swallowtail

Every month the Conservancy provides a wildlife photo and nature facts to the Coast Newspaper. This month was a beautiful image of the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly photographed by Land Team Manager, Juan Troncoso. You can find it on page 13 of The Coast News newspaper Inland Edition (August 20, 2021).

View it in the Coast News digital edition.

Earth 8 – LeoMar: New Land Preserve In North County

San Diego.

“Tucked away in the hillside of San Diego County is a new land preserve.

Leonard Wittwer, the President of the Board of Directors for the Escondido Creek Conservancy, described some of the animals that have made themselves at home at LeoMar, a new 79-acre land preserve purchased by the conservancy in the Olivenhain community of Encinitas…”

Read the full article CBS 8.

New Habitat Preserve In North San Diego County Helps California Gnatcatcher

“A little slice of classic Southern California habitat is getting long-term protection in San Diego’s North County.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy has wrangled more than $2 million to buy 79 acres of hilly land covered in coastal sage scrub habitat.

People walking in this hilly undeveloped pocket of land might catch a whiff of sage and mint. Short stubby flowers reach skyward from the rock-hard earth dried out by the sun…”

Read the full article on KPBS.

A screenshot of the Encinitas Advocate newspater with a photo of some coastal scrub brush.

Escondido Creek Conservancy Creates New LeoMar Preserve in Olivenhain

“The Escondido Creek Conservancy land team’s first day on the property was June 11–their chatter and laughter echoed on a quiet morning as they climbed back up a small slope carrying an old sink someone had ditched. A red tailed hawk soared overhead and as if on cue, called out a hello.

‘It’s very exciting when we start a new project like this,” Van Leer said. “We did it, it’s ours, This is a pretty special piece of property. It makes us all very happy.'”

Read the full article on the Encinitas Advocate.

An Image of a news article about proposed public gardens along the Escondido Creek in the San Diego Union Tribune.

The nonprofit proposed the local gardens as part of a larger creek restoration project

ESCONDIDO – The Escondido Creek Conservancy is calling for construction of a series of community gardens in the city, as part of the restoration of its namesake waterway.

The project aims to revitalize Escondido Creek as it runs through the city, lining the flood control channel with a trail, linear park and other recreational features. Among those could be small local gardens “where residents of the city could be assigned small plots to grow vegetables, flowers, and the like,” Conservancy President Richard Murphy recommended in a letter…

Read the full article on the San Diego Union Tribune.

New campaign to support in North County Wildlife ‘Missing Lynx’ promotes wildlife corridors

November 7, 2019

ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Creek Conservancy has launched “The Missing Lynx” campaign to establish permanently protected wildlife corridors in North San Diego County. After successfully acquiring 975 acres as part of their “Save 1,000 Acres” campaign, the Conservancy has shifted its focus to connecting the missing links, so wildlife can move freely between preserved areas, and protecting those linkages in perpetuity.

Read the full article

Escondido Creek Conservancy’s outdoor classroom connects students with nature

Sept 27, 2019

Imagine a world where every student, in every grade, receives a field trip in nature. In Escondido, the Escondido Creek Conservancy is well on the way to making this dream a reality.

Read the full article

Explore the Wonders of the Watershed with Escondido Creek Conservancy’s new hike series

Sept 9, 2019

The Escondido Creek Conservancy is providing special access to its wildlife preserves for a new educational hike series called Wonders of the Watershed. Participants will wander under scenic oak canopies, walk along soothing creek water and view breathtaking summits throughout the Escondido Creek watershed with experts on local ecology, birds of prey and forest bathing.

Read the full article

Wildlife habitat gets break around Wohlford

July 15, 2019

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has secured $4.2 million in grant funds from the State of California to protect the 282-acre John Henry property near Lake Wohlford—now known as George Sardina, MD Preserve. The Conservancy took ownership of the property on July 2 and is already making plans to restore areas damaged by past uses.

Read the full article

Escondido Youth Help Design the Future of Escondido

May 1, 2019

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has begun a study to reimagine the concrete flood control channel in Grape Day Park in central Escondido as a more natural creek. CIties and states all over the country have undertaken creek and river restoration projects and found them to be a boon for economic development and improved quality of life in otherwise urban areas.

Read the full article

Image courtesy of San Diego Union Tribune (Charlie Neuman)

Pollinator garden sparks metamorphosis in downtown Escondido

November 26, 2018

In downtown Escondido, between Evan’s Tires and the concrete banks of the Escondido Creek, a transformation was in progress.

A gold and black Monarch caterpillar inched up the stem of a milkweed plant in Plaza Del Arroyo last week, seeking leaves that would fuel its conversion to a vivid orange butterfly.

Read the full article

Reidy Creek

Escondido Creek Conservancy Awarded $380K to improve Reidy Creek

September 15, 2018

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has been awarded $380,873 by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to implement the Reidy Creek Restoration and Beautification Project. 

“Reidy Creek is an important natural waterway in the Escondido Creek watershed,” said Richard Murphy, president of the Conservancy, “but it has suffered from infestations of non-native plants that have diminished the ecological values of the creek.” 

Read the full article

Image courtesy of Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

New Exhibit at Elfin Forest Center Explores ‘Coexisting with Coyotes’

September 5, 2018

A new exhibit at the interpretive center in Escondido’s Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve explores how San Diego residents can coexist with coyotes.

As these highly adaptable animals continue to lose their traditional habitat and are driven onto human-occupied areas, conflict between people and coyotes has increased. Between 1998 and 2015 there were 90 reported coyote attacks on humans in California.

Read the full article

Image courtesy of San Diego Union Tribune (Don Boomer).

This deserted avocado grove could be a gateway to science education

August 6, 2018

The hilltop off of Mountain Meadow Road in North Escondido looks like countless other deserted orchards in North County, with ramshackle structures in withered avocado groves.

Members of The Escondido Creek Conservancy, however, see a sanctuary from urban sprawl, a clear route for wildlife passage and a future science education center. They’ve secured $6.8 million to purchase 693 acres east of Interstate 15 known as the Mountain Gate Property. It’s a key piece of the conservancy’s plan to assemble large areas of protected open space through the Escondido Creek watershed.

Read the full article

Image courtesy of San Diego Foundation.

San Diego Foundation grants open the outdoors to students without park access

July 20, 2018

The San Diego Foundation has committed more than a half-million dollars through its “Opening the Outdoors” program to benefit residents in “park-poor” areas of the county, including several grants aimed at Escondido students.

“We know that San Diegans have a long history and pride in protecting the outdoors,” said Nicola Hedge, director of climate and environment programs for the foundation. “But we also know that not all San Diegans have equal access to the outdoors. While 50 percent of our total region is green space, many ethnically diverse, low-income communities have limited access to green space.”

Read the full article

Harmony Grove

Illegal Mountain Bike Trail Found in Escondido Creek Conservancy

March 2, 2018

An illegal mountain bike trail was discovered on San Marcos property owned by the Escondido Creek Conservancy last December.

The unsanctioned trail is on a 250-acre plot of land owned by the Conservancy and stretches for at least one mile.

“This is sensitive, beautiful habitat that was protected for wildlife and plants,” said Hannah Walchak of the Escondido Creek Conservancy.

Walchak said the group was conducting a routine inspection of their property when the trail was discovered in December. Further inspection in January showed how much work was put into the illegal trail.

Read the full article

Image courtesy of San Diego Union Tribune (Howard Lipin).

Conservancy removes illegal bike trail that marred wildlife preserve

April 20, 2018

On her routine inspection of properties in the Escondido Creek Conservancy earlier this year, Hannah Walchak spotted something new — an illegal, but carefully constructed mountain bike trail, snaking down the hillside on sensitive wildlife habitat.

Walchak, conservation land manager for the organization, investigated and found that the trail was freshly built, and formed a five-foot-wide scar more than a mile through the brushy hills. Someone who knew what they were doing had hacked the California lilac from the path, tossed it aside and moved rocks to create a smooth, steep surface for riding.

Read the full article

Image courtesy of San Diego Union Tribune (Charlie Neuman).

Ambitious plan would restore Escondido Creek

December 8, 2016

A concrete channel that cuts through a large chunk of Escondido may get a makeover, as conservationists begin planning to restore Escondido Creek to its natural state.

The nonprofit Escondido Creek Conservancy is seeking $355,000 through a regional water grant to begin designing the restoration project — a first step toward transforming the urban culvert from a polluted canal to a picturesque waterway, officials said.

“We would love to see it be a much more natural channel, and a public amenity for the community..,” said Ann Van Leer, executive director of the conservancy.

Read the full article

Escondido Creek Watershed

Mysterious willow die-off at Escondido Creek

November 26, 2016

A mysterious pest has damaged willows along the Escondido Creek Watershed, leaving conservation officials scrambling for answers to the die-off.

Officials with the Escondido Creek Conservancy originally feared the damage was caused by the shot hole borer beetle, which attacks 137 tree species including willows, oaks and sycamores.

Tests at UC Riverside came back negative for a fungus associated with the beetle, but didn’t reveal what could be threatening the watershed.

Read the full article