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“Friends” offer priorities for Daley Ranch

Recently, when visiting with board members of the Friends of Daley Ranch (FODR), Mayor Paul McNamara asked the group to send him their “goals and hopes.”

Shortly after, the FODR board met and developed a strategic plan for the property for this year and beyond. They sent a letter to McNamara signed by Colleen Mackinnon, board president.

Their priorities, in order of importance are: 1) Ongoing biological monitoring, 2) barn rehabilitation, 3) ranch house as interpretive center, 4) Shuttle service, 5) Recreational resources in area one, 6) Land acquisition.

In their letter to McNamara, the board addressed their top priority: “The board believes that the DR Master Plan calls for regular biological monitoring of the Conservation Mitigation Bank by professionals. Such monitoring would include surveys of native habitat, wildlife, native species, invasive species, human impacts, wildlife corridors, and possible edge effects from existing or proposed human activity.” It suggests obtaining funding for this activity from “Wildlife” Agencies” and from mitigation bank credit sales. 

On the subject of Barn Rehabilitation, the letter notes: “The redwood barn just north and west of the Ranch House is the oldest structure still standing on Daley Ranch. It has important historical significance, in-situ, as an integral part of the working ranch that once existed.” The structure is deteriorating and its structural integrity is threatened.  The board requests the city to authorize a rehabilitation plan for the barn, strengthen its internal supports while preserving its exterior.  It suggests board member Dick Althouse, “with his experience and construction skills, and as a former member of the Escondido Historical Preservation Commission, has the knowledge and passion to lead this program as a volunteer foreman.”  The board hopes that eventually the public will have access to the barn. 

The board would like the city to designate the Ranch House as a permanent interpretative center. It writes: “FODR could potentially pay for interpretive displays featuring information on Daley Ranch’s flora, fauna, history, geology, and Native American traditions.” It proposes that the display cases be portable so the Ranch House could be used for meetings and events by rolling them to temporary storage.

Noting that at one time the city provided free shuttle service every Sunday from the La Honda parking lot to the Ranch House, the board proposes reinstating the service, with wheelchair accessible vehicles, to open Daley Ranch to more residents. 

The board’s letter points out that the Daley Ranch Master Plan created Area One, a few acres set aside for recreation. FODR has partnered with the Escondido Creek Conservancy to explore additional features to attract more users the Ranch for activities, such as adding an interpretive trail. The letter asks the city’s help to make this vision possible, especially cutting red tape where possible.

Finally, the board urges the city to pursue acquiring several parcels to enhance the Daley Ranch Conservation Mitigation Bank: 

• The BLM property that is landlocked within Daley Ranch

• The BLM properties adjacent to Daley Ranch on the east side

• The De La Fuente property landlocked within Daley Ranch; the owner has expressed his desire to use this land for mitigation purposes.

• The five-acre parcel just west of the La Honda parking lot; for additional parking, and/or for a visitor center or other active recreational uses. The owner is a willing seller.

The Times-Advocate asked Mayor McNamara to comment on the proposals. He noted that when he met with the group they discussed their desire to use some of the city’s mitigation credit funds.

“At the meeting, we quickly went into the obvious discussion that everyone wants more of the city budget, there isn’t enough to go around, and so what are the FODR priorities,” said McNamara. “The idea being they would compete with the California Center for the Arts and the other related entities in the city.  Well, they had no strategic plan or priorities to present, and so I asked them to go back to the sweat lodge, discuss a plan, and tell us what you think is the best way forward for Daley Ranch.”

The letter was the result of the board thinking through the challenges of the ranch, and prioritizing actions that would resolve and or alleviate the challenges. 

The mayor commented, “The FODR priority list demonstrates that the city has concerned citizens who think not only for today, but long term as they think through the challenges of Daley Ranch.  Escondido is lucky to have and grateful for their volunteerism. We will review their input in a holistic framework that includes the other challenges facing the city, and the constraints of a limited budget.”

Asked if he recommended this approach for other groups that want to influence the city council, McNamara said, “I think this approach engages the city residents in the challenges of the city.  I think of it as everyone becomes part of the solution.  And it certainly gives the city staff in the ever difficult budget discussions information on what’s important.  I hope that the “committee” concept discussed at the state of the city will more or less emulate what they have done.  

“As a small point of clarification,” the mayor added. “I don’t see the committees as strictly one organization.  They could for example address a topic like youth sports which would have numerous organizations engaged in the discussions.  The city role is not just providing money but also facilitation and in some areas leadership.”

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