ENCINITAS — The San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy has bought 77 acres of scrubby canyon that adjoins residential neighborhoods near Cardiff and the nearly 1,000-acre San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve.
The property is crossed by hillside trails that connect Lake Drive to existing habitat at the western Strawberry Fields. Its purchase was made possible by a gift from Solana Beach resident Ann Dunne, a longtime conservancy sponsor.
“I stared at that jewel of nature, still wild, for hours from the top of Annie’s Canyon Trail at San Elijo Lagoon. It belongs in safe hands, and now it is,” Dunne said in a written statement announcing the acquisition.
The purchase is the largest expansion in nearly 30 years of protected land near the lagoon, said Doug Gibson, the conservancy’s executive director and principal scientist.
The land is classified as rare “coastal sage scrub” and “southern coastal bluff scrub” habitat home to federally endangered animals and plants including the San Diego pocket mouse, the California gnatcatcher and Del Mar manzanita, Gibson said. A survey commissioned by the conservancy also identified other special-status plants that include California adolphia, wart-stemmed ceanothus, Orcutt’s pincushion, Del Mar Mesa sand aster, cliff spurge, San Diego barrel cactus, beach golden aster, sea dahlia and Nuttall’s scrub oak.
The conservancy manages the San Elijo Ecological Reserve with San Diego County Parks & Recreation Department and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. In addition, it owns 143 acres within and adjacent to the reserve and conservation easements on more than 70 acres.