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Special Projects

Save 1000 Acres

Mark Twain famously said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) has joined with the Friends of Daley Ranch, the Palomar Audubon Society and the Endangered Habitats League, taking Mark Twain’s words to heart.

At the end of 2015, the Conservancy began the Save 1000 Acres Campaign with the goal to preserve at least 1,000 acres in the upper Escondido Creek watershed to help us create a nine+ mile protected landscape extending from Highway 15 to Bear Valley. We are thrilled to report that we have secured $6.8 million to protect the 693-acre Mountain Gate property—now called Mountain Meadow Preserve. To complete the campaign, we are seeking funds to help preserve the 282-acre John Henry Ranch near Lake Wohlford and additional parcels to strengthen wildlife corridors.

In two and a half years, the Conservancy has received over 500 individual donations in support of the SAVE 1000 acres campaign. These donations help us fund option payments, appraisals, and other transaction costs. We are seeking grants and other donations to meet the sales prices.

Our goal is to receive 1,000 individual donations by the end of the campaign.  Contributions of any size, even $5, are welcome as they help us make the case to the funders and public officials that people care about conservation and want to protect North County.

With your help, we can SAVE 1000 acres! Donations are tax deductible.

Media coverage about our 1,000 Acres Campaign:


Grape Day Park

The Conservancy has been awarded a grant of $355,000 to develop preliminary designs (30% design level) to restore Escondido Creek through Grape Day Park. This project will illustrate how the 6+-mile concrete flood control channel could look and function if restored. The 30% design level is considered a significant engineering milestone, as it enables the larger project costs to be estimated once a design is rendered to 30%. The project is being conducted in partnership with Escondido Education COMPACT and the City of Escondido. Ultimate project outcomes could include increased parkland, recreational opportunities, economic opportunities, and improved real estate values. Similar projects elsewhere have improved the quality of life and provided economic opportunities for residents, and one key component of this project is an analysis to evaluate the economic benefit of a restored Escondido Creek in its natural state.

The project began in Fall of 2017 and will extend over two years. Much of the work is technical in nature, as we must first fully understand how a restored channel will function (convey flow, water quality, ecological processes, etc.) within a watershed context. Consultants will review currently available studies and data, filling data gaps as needed with additional research, mapping, and data collection. Engineers and hydrologists will then develop hydrologic, hydraulic, sediment transport, and geomorphic models or analytic tools, which will be used to assess different design scenarios. Alternate scenarios will be refined through a public process in coordination with the City of Escondido’s Neighborhood Services program to tap its network of residents participating in neighborhood groups.

Unique to this project, the Conservancy has partnered with Escondido Education COMPACT to implement a program of Conservation Fellowships where young people from central Escondido will shadow the project from start to finish to learn STEM education methodologies from professionals working in the real world. Fellows will attend technical meetings, accompany professionals in fieldwork, and participate in project activities.


Water Quality

Water Quality Overview

A 2007 Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) Report for the Carlsbad Watershed revealed the Escondido Creek to be in poor ecological condition. Water quality tests showed that the creek had low levels of toxicity, impaired aquatic life and compromised beneficial use (such as recreation) due to high bacteria levels following storms. Without clean and free flowing water in the creek and its tributaries, the Escondido Creek watershed will never fulfill its potential to support the natural diversity of species that make our region unique.

Water Quality Team

Over the years, numerous agencies and special interest groups have conducted water quality testing on various sections of Escondido Creek. Although these tests have provided useful information, they have not always been conducted regularly at the same locations. Beginning in September, 2011, the Conservancy began conducting routine water quality monitoring at four sites along the Escondido Creek. The purpose of the Water Quality Monitoring Program is to establish a baseline that will be used to evaluate the condition and overall health of Escondido Creek on an ongoing basis, as well as to identify short- and long-term trends.

Water quality parameters that are monitored by the Conservancy’s Water Quality Monitoring Program include the following:

  • Alkalinity – how well the water can neutralize acidic pollution
  • Ammonia – a component of fertilizer that serves as a nutrient for plant growth, but can also be toxic
  • Dissolved Oxygen – oxygen that has been dissolved into the water and is necessary for aquatic organisms to breathe
  • Nitrate – a nutrient for plant growth that may cause excessive algae growth when present in higher than normal quantities
  • Nitrite – an extremely toxic nitrogen compound
  • pH – a measure of the acidity of the water
  • Phosphate – a nutrient for plant growth that may cause excessive algae growth when present in higher than normal quantities
  • Temperature – an important determinant of whether or not certain organisms can survive in the creek

Many of these water quality parameters have improved since monitoring began, but there is still much more work to be done. The natural creek (as opposed to the concrete flood control channel in downtown Escondido) acts as a biofilter, removing pollutants from the creek as it progresses toward the ocean. One of the Conservancy’s long-term goals is to re-naturalize this concrete channel in order to provide greater benefits to both people and wildlife.

If you are interested in volunteering to help with water quality testing or if you want to learn more about our Water Quality Monitoring Program, please contact us.

Fire Recovery

On May 14, 2014 the Cocos Fire in north San Diego County scorched 1,995 acres and destroyed 36 homes in San Marcos and the Harmony Grove region of Escondido.  The massive arson fire began as a small ember, which was started in the backyard of a Washingtonia Avenue home. In addition to the significant loss of property and other human impacts, the fire also wreaked havoc on habitats and wildlife.

As part of the Conservancy’s commitment to land management within the Escondido Creek watershed, we are monitoring how different habitat types are recovering in the wake of the Cocos Fire.  Part of this entails a visual documentation of representative habitat types. Every month we send out our volunteer amateur photographers to consistently capture pictures of affected grassland, oak woodland, chaparral, and riparian sites.  This effort is a five-year project that will continue until May 2019. At the end of the project the Conservancy will create a time-lapse video, comprised of all the photos taken at each site, which will visualize how that area is recovering.  In the meantime, you can follow the progress of this project here. We will be posting the most up-to-date before-and-after photos for each location regularly. The project will be used to help us monitor which native plant species are recovering naturally and which may require additional assistance due to severe ecological degradation. We also commissioned a study to access ecological damage in the area.

Daley Ranch Center

The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy), in partnership with the FODR, has received a small grant to investigate the creation of a youth interpretive center and/or primitive campground on/near the site of the White building. The goal of re-purposing the site is to provide activities for youth groups, especially those groups providing opportunities to local low-income youth, to enjoy unique outdoor educational opportunities at Daley Ranch.  The Conservancy and the FODR are seeking a planning consultant to help develop a strategy to re-purpose the site for youth activities, consistent with the Daley Ranch Master Plan. The strategy will be developed in coordination with the City of Escondido and the FODR. The Conservancy’s youth Conservation Fellows must be incorporated into the planning process.

Our goal at the end of this planning process, which should be completed by June 30, 2019, is to have a document(s) appropriate for approval by the City of Escondido and usable as a basis to develop grant applications to seek funding to implement recommended improvements.