An Opportunity to Expand Public Lands for Cuyamaca Ranch State Park
Location The property is adjacent to Cuyamaca Rancho State
Park, South, Montane Sector, Colorado Desert District,
9727 River Drive, Descanso, California, 91916,
San Diego County.
Acreage 20.67 acres
Description The property is located in an area along Descanso Creek that is rich in natural
resources. The property has been a private residence for over 40 years. Three
parcels make up the available acreage. The land is considered to be an excellent
addition to the park by the Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation and the Colorado
Desert District, Montane Sector. Acquisition of this property would extend the
parks southern property to River Dr. in Descanso, California. This acts as a clean
boundary line for the park and also acts as a buffer with the existing Wilderness
CRS Park Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is the jewel of San Diego County’s mountains. It is
a haven for hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers, campers and wildlife watchers.
Established in 1933, the park encompasses over 28,000 acres of protected
wildlife habitat, watershed, archaeological sites, botanical reserve, and
recreational land. Roughly half of the park is classified as wilderness area.
Threat There is a high probability the property would be of
significant interest to private development due to the property’s natural beauty
and imminent zoning changes to density which will occur in 2012. This desirable
location is just a few miles off of Interstate 8 and Hwy 79, and is 40 miles from
downtown San Diego California.
Opportunity The property has been a family residence for more than 40 years. The owners
sold the property within the past 5 years only to gain it back due to a
foreclosure. In the early months of 2009 Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation sought
out the owners and began to discuss the possibility of the land being acquired as
an addition to the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The property is extremely
desirable in that it meets important criteria: the property is contiguous to the
existing park and establishes clean boundary lines to the southwest end of the
park. The owners support the property becoming an addition to the State Park
and show a willingness to cooperate with the Foundation’s acquisition process.
Support State Park officials are supportive of the acquisition of this
property and rated the property with high marks due to its proximity along the
southern border. There are no plans at this time to develop the property for
Land Acquisition-Request for Funding
Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation submits this proposal for Land Acquisition monies for an estimated
$792,225 to help acquire and prepare 20.67 acres.
The purpose of the acquisition is to acquire the property which is adjacent to Cuyamaca Rancho State
Park, an area known as Merigan Trailhead, at the south end of the park. This land is ideal to serve as
a buffer to the Wilderness Area. The intended owner of the land is the State of California, under the
management of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Montane Sector, and Colorado Desert District.
Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation (CRF) pursues public funding, private grants and donations to raise
funds for purchase of desirable properties from willing sellers. The Foundation serves as facilitator in
acquiring additional land so as to enhance Cuyamaca Rancho and Palomar State Parks.
As a result of this property being offered for sale, a number of groups have expressed concerns
about the potential implications of private development. Currently, the property’s use is defined by
the voter approved Forest Conservation Initiative. That initiative sets development density at one unit
per 40 acres. The initiative sunsets in 2012. The San Diego County General Plan Update includes
the property in a newly defined Rural Village Boundary indicating areas most suitable for
development. The market value of this property could be several times what it is now and
development will surely occur. This property is congruent with the park boundary and would be a
positive addition of open space in the Descanso area to the park. The purchase of this property
would provide a continuance of the open grasslands from the Merigan Fire Road to River Dr. in
At this time there are no active proposals for this property from private owners. There have been
many inquiries because it is such a desirable property. Currently the owners have a high interest in
selling to California Department of Parks and Recreation. The owner’s position could change due to
pressure from family members to sell quickly. If this property sells to a private party, it could
harmfully affect the overall ambience of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park as well as the State Park’s
future ability to preserve nearby open space.
There are no existing or potential easement and access issues.
About the Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation
The mission of the Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation is to improve and expand parklands to support
preservation, recreation, adventure, and inspiration for all visitors. Through volunteer efforts, we
inform our constituency of the great contributions that Cuyamaca Rancho State Park makes to the
quality of life in San Diego County. Preservation of our precious parklands is essential to serving the
needs of the increasingly urbanized population.
How We Work
Founded in 2000, Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation provides a mechanism by which funds are raised,
acquisitions made, and property transferred to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. There is no other
organization that works to acquire property for Cuyamaca Rancho and Palomar State Park.
Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation’s land acquisition priorities are determined with assistance from park
staff and incorporated into an acquisition plan. Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation works with property
owners interested in selling and can facilitate sensitive acquisitions such as gifts, bequests and
Why Do We Need to Add Property to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park?
With development inevitable and the area becoming more populated, we have learned that it is
important to protect and preserve open space land for public enjoyment. Over time, natural places
will disappear if no action is taken to acquire, protect and preserve them. Preservation is not only for
the animals, plant species and cultural resources. It is essential that we act as stewards to expand
our precious Cuyamaca Rancho State Park lands.
Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation Acquisition History
• 2005 Acquired 76-acre Mack Ranch in 2003 for $ 1.1. million as addition to Cuyamaca Rancho
• Major Funding Source for 2005 Acquisition: Proposition 40-Parks and Water Bond, California
Department of Parks and Recreation, CalTrans Environmental and Mitigation (EEM) and
matching federal funds from Land and Water Conservation Funds.
Board of Trustees
Lynda Sterns, President
Fritz Bettjer, Ph.D., Vice President
Suzanne Kirkwood, CPA, Treasurer
Molly Jean Featheringill,
Leland Fetzer, Ph.D.
Park Representatives: Nedra Martinez, Superintendent, Montane Sector,
Michael Wells, Ph.D. District Superintendent, Colorado Desert, California
Lynda Sterns, President
Cuyamaca Rancho Foundation
PO 212, Descanso, California, 91916
Snow covered Cuyamaca Peak, Cuyamaca Rancho
State Park, view from San Diego, California.
Over time, natural places will disappear if no action is
taken to acquire, protect and preserve them.
Preservation is not only for the wildlife, plant spececies
and cultural resources. It is essential that we act as
stewards to expand our public lands for future
generations to benefit.
Hempel Property-Outlined in red.
407-070-01-00; 407-070-06-00; 407-070-07-00