Escondido Creek Conservancy seeks to preserve open space in Elfin Forest/Harmony Grove


Press release

An opportunity has opened up to preserve the largest tract of remaining undeveloped land along Escondido Creek west of I-15 with the recent purchase agreement obtained by The Escondido Creek Conservancy (TECC) and the property owner.

To save Escondido’s skyline from development, TECC is now tasked with finding the multimillion-dollar purchase price before the agreement expires at the end of this year.

“This spectacular area has been on our wish list for more than 15 years,” said Steve Barker, TECC president. “But only now have all the pieces fallen into place — allowing TECC to lock up the parcels until the end of the year. This gives TECC time to broker a deal that will protect the land for the benefit and enjoyment of all county residents, now and into the future.”

The land, dubbed University Heights on development plans, due to its proximity to the California State University of San Marcos, and also known locally as “Sleeping Lady Ridge,” because the silhouette of the land resembles a sleeping woman — consists of 502 acres south of San Marcos and west of Escondido. It takes in the summit, southern slopes and a secluded valley below Mt Whitney, a prominent local high point. This pristine landscape supports the many plants and animals of the chaparral, sage scrub and oak woodland habitats. Located between the trail systems of San Marcos and those of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve and County of San Diego Parks and Recreation lands, Sleeping Lady Ridge represents a tremendous opportunity for connected outdoor recreation for hikers, bikers and equestrians – without the need for long travel distances.

At least two development schemes have been proposed for the land, with up to 1000 new homes suggested, the most recent ending in foreclosure — opening the door for TECC to preserve this valuable resource permanently.

“Access to experiencing nature is an essential part of human happiness and health and TECC envisions these lands becoming part of a regional open space preserve. The close proximity to the densely populated North County Cities of Escondido and San Marcos will allow easy access, perhaps even a trail head at a nearby Sprinter station” Barker said.

TECC’s task now is to assemble a coalition of green-minded investors to assist in closing escrow this year. The long-term goal is to transfer the acreage to County Parks and Recreation or a similar agency for permanent preservation. “Based on the natural value of this land and the interest by wildlife agencies in its preservation, we are very optimistic that long term permanent preservation is possible. Our critical challenge is to find the supporters for the near-term action to secure the land now” Mr. Barker stated. “All interested in helping out, in any way, no matter how small, should contact the TECC office on (760) 471 9354 or email”

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