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San Diego adds new conservation land to Mission Trails Park

San Diego added 25 acres to the wildlife preserve at Mission Trails Regional Park through a land purchase that helps fulfill the county’s conservation plan.

The land is part of the East Elliot Community Planning Area, located just west of Santee, north of Mast Boulevard and east of Republic Services Sycamore Landfill.

The city bought the parcel for $773,500 from a private seller earlier this summer, said Mark Berninger, natural resource manager for the open space division of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Money for the purchase came from the city’s Habitat Acquisition Fund, which collects mitigation fees from developments too small to require their own mitigation projects, he said.

The parcel will form part of the city’s portion of San Diego County’s Multiple Species Conservation Program, a regional effort to preserve 900 square miles of land essential to local plants and animals.

The new addition to Mission Trails Park is critical habitat for the California gnatcatcher, an endangered songbird, Berninger said, and also hosts other animals such as mule deer and bobcats. It’s also habitat for rare plants such as the San Diego goldenstar and the small succulent variegated dudleya.

The parcel’s value also stems from the fact that it was undeveloped and for sale, he said.

“We’re trying to buy all of these properties or preserve them through conservation easements,” he said. “This one was special because it was available. It’s becoming more and more difficult to purchase these, and to have willing sellers who can meet our requirements.”

The sale closed in late June, and city botanists and biologists are surveying the parcel to determine which species are present and how to preserve them, Berninger said. Like other preserved wildlife areas, it will be open to the public for passive recreation such as hiking, birdwatching and photography.

“It’s really important for us to acquire these properties to fill out our preserves,” Berninger said. “This property goes into 100 percent conservation, so there is no development in the future and we can make sure this property is there for our grandkids and their grandkids to enjoy.”

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