CARMEL MOUNTAIN HABITAT RESTORATION PROJECT
Red Rocks, Vernal Pools, & Fairy Shrimp
The Chaparral Lands Conservancy is conducting a project at the City of San Diego’s Carmel Mountain Preserve to restore and enhance imperiled habitats and species inside a regional habitat preserve.
Tucked away in the City of San Diego’s community of Carmel Valley, the scenic red-rocked Carmel Mountain Preserve is a special Noah’s Ark of nature surrounded by suburban development. With sweeping views of Torrey Pines State Reserve and ocean sunsets, the 300 acre Preserve was dedicated in 1999 following a unique agreement between conservationists and developers.
The Carmel Mountain Preserve forms a crucial conservation core area under the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) and is a critical element of natural infrastructure in the Carmel Valley community. Every type of vegetation found on Carmel Mountain is unique and imperiled – Southern maritime chaparral, coastal sage scrub, wet meadows, and vernal pools. These unique habitats in turn support more than two dozen rare species, several of which like the California gnatcatcher, San Diego fairy shrimp, and Del Mar manzanita are federally listed endangered species.
A preserve management plan addressing both the Carmel Mountain and nearby Del Mar Mesa preserves has been drafted by the City of San Diego but has not yet been finalized due to ongoing negotiations over trail use in the Del Mar Mesa Preserve. In the meantime dedicated City park rangers and volunteers have worked together over the years at the Carmel Mountain Preserve to manage recreational activities, block off-road vehicles, clean up trash, lead nature walks and install educational signs.
Yet there is still an outstanding unfulfilled need at the Carmel Mountain Preserve to improve the condition of several imperiled species and habitats that were impacted by activities that occurred prior to establishment of the Preserve and to fulfill the goals of the MSCP for covered species. In cooperation with City preserve managers, The Chaparral Lands Conservancy is addressing this need with a project to restore and enhance vernal pools and dependent species and watersheds, as well as nearby degraded southern maritime chaparral.
The Carmel Mountain Vernal Pool and Uplands Habitat Restoration Project is now underway to improve the status of imperiled habitats and species on the Carmel Mountain Preserve.
The first element of the project is restoration of vernal pools and surrounding wet meadow habitat. These special areas occur on Carmel Mountain in areas with little chaparral cover and, as a result, were degraded by vehicle activity for years prior to establishment of the Preserve. Tire ruts drained some pools and altered wet meadow hydrology, and weeds colonized degraded areas formerly covered with native grasses and remarkable living soil crusts. Under the restoration project, degraded vernal pools have been expanded, recontoured, or otherwise enhanced, new basins have been created, and surrounding watersheds and wet meadows restored, all to improve habitat conditions and enhance populations of imperiled vernal pool species including the San Diego fairy shrimp, San Diego mesa mint, and Western spadefoot toad.
A WORD ON TRAILS
Public recreation trails on Carmel Mountain are an important community recreational facility and have been the subject of lengthy negotiations to facilitate public enjoyment of the Preserve while ensuring protection of sensitive resources. No designated trails have be closed for the proposed restoration project. Instead, the restoration project has integrated trails from the City’s preserve management plan into the restoration project and will include educational signs and an interpretive boardwalk near restored vernal pools to provide an opportunity for education and up-close public enjoyment of these special resources.
WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!
Do you live in North County San Diego and are you interested in getting outdoors to help with habitat restoration? Then we’ve got a job for you! The Conservancy needs volunteer site stewards at our Carmel Mountain Habitat Restoration Project to help with easy work like stacking dead brush to hide closed paths and to greet preserve visitors with information on the project, especially during evenings and weekends. Any amount of time or ability is a big help and you can’t beat the ocean views and the smell of sage! Please contact us if you can help.
The Carmel Mountain Habitat Restoration Project has been made possible through the generous support of the California Natural Resources Agency, the the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Conservation Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.