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Clean Crest Crew: Reduces Fire Potential
Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive

from left: Dave White, Sami Collins, Jim Smith, Nancy White.
Photo Jeff Barnouw.
Click to enlarge.


Sami Collins. Photo Jeff Barnouw.Sami Collins.
Photo Jeff Barnouw.

Del Mar is surrounded by wonders of nature. The ocean borders us to the west, San Dieguito River and Lagoon to the north, Torrey Pines Reserve Extension to the south, and Crest Canyon to the east. It’s not Grand Canyon, but it is in its own way grand. All people in Del Mar are aware of the ocean, many the lagoon, but too few our canyon.

I volunteer with a group called Friends of the Crest Canyon. It was created by the non-profit San Diego Canyonlands (SDCL), which has given rise to over 40 such Friends groups. SDCL started in 1998 as a grass-roots effort between a local branch of the Sierra Club and community members near Switzer Canyon in North Park to push (successfully) for less invasive sewer maintenance routes through San Diego’s urban canyons. Around 2008 it assumed its current name and form, dedicated to restoring and maintaining canyon open space, with paid full-time and part-time staff along with dozens of student and professional interns reducing fire potential.

Crest Canyon has been included for about a decade but now has become a focus of attention with the arrival of Samantha (Sami) Collins, who leads stewardship events in the form of invasive plant removal, trash clean-up, trail clearance and maintenance in Crest and Gonzales Canyons. Sami finished her B.A in Sustainability last year at SDSU and hopes to go on for a Masters degree in Environmental Planning. Crest Canyon Work Parties are held each third Thursday of the month from 9 am to about noon, meeting at the Durango Drive and Lozana Road intersection trailhead. SDCL provides all the equipment needed. You only have to bring hiking appropriate clothing and shoes, water and sun protection.
We have been removing once omnipresent Hottentot fig (Carpobrotus edulis), insidious crystalline iceplant (Mesembryanthemum crystalllinum), beautiful but invasive pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) and tocalote thistle (Centaurea melitensis). During path-clearing work on January 18, cutting back (lopping) the overgrown bushes encroaching on the western path, the five of us came upon numerous species of plants, which Sami and the knowledgeable Jim Smith identified, and one that neither Sami nor Jim, who lives near the Canyon on the east side, recognized. But he and Dave White (who came over with his wife from near Los Penasquitos Preserve) had their smart-phones ready with an app called iNaturalist, which photographs the plant and then offers likely identification(s). It may have been a wart-stem ceanothus.

During the work party we met Byron Shoemaker, a Ranger with the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department, who is responsible for Crest Canyon among others. The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy also has organized work parties for iceplant removal and the like. That’s how I started in 2009. To my eye, appreciative but untrained, the many Torrey Pines scattered through the Canyon looked thriving and beautiful. But I have recently heard of several neighbors on or near Crest Road who have lost Torrey Pine trees to beetle infestation.



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