Community Commentary


Preserve Calavera is a nonprofit organization that depends on public support to fulfill its mission: to protect, enhance and restore the natural resources of coastal North County. This grassroots partnership has achieved remarkable results since Preserve Calavera was founded in 1999 to advocate for open space in the Calavera Hills.
The permanent open space that now surrounds Lake Calavera and Mt. Calavera provides hundreds of acres of natural habitat for wildlife, including the federally endangered Coastal California gnatcatcher. It also offers varied recreational opportunities for the people of North County. Trails will eventually extend from Oak Riparian Park westward beyond Mt. Calavera, the core of an extinct volcano, along creeks, woodland, grasslands and our local sage. To enhance public understanding of this unique area, Preserve Calavera frequently organizes educational hikes led by experts who explain the area’s geology, ecosystems and wildlife, helping us reconnect with a sense of place.
While initially focused on preserving this core area, activities have now expanded to address broader issues of watershed protection and wildlife movement corridors. A recent priority was to purchase the 134-acre Sherman property in the western half of the Buena Vista Creek Valley. Now known as the Buena Vista Creek Ecological Reserve, this preserve protects a critical link in the wildlife movement corridor from the Calavera area to Camp Pendleton. Preserve Calavera initiated a unique, community-based fundraising campaign to purchase this land. More than 700 local residents and businesses donated the key matching funds that leveraged more than $8 million from state and federal agencies, and the Trust For Public Land. The State Department of Fish and Game holds title to the property and has contracted its management to the Center for Natural Lands Management.
Public trails are planned in the reserve to showcase the Buena Vista Creek and the unique natural, historic and cultural resources of its scenic valley. Native American villages dating back 9,000 years, the historic Marron Adobe and nesting white-tailed kites remind all who visit this area of the riches of North County. The creation of the reserve brings closer to reality a trail from the sacred El Salto waterfall along Buena Vista Creek all the way to Buena Vista Lagoon and to our coast. In the meantime, to allow the public to “see” the beauty of the reserve, Preserve Calavera organized an Artists’ Day in the Valley that was followed by the exhibition of their works “The Valley Seen Through Artists’ Eyes.”
Working with the Center for Natural Lands Management, Preserve Calavera is restoring the valley’s natural lands by underwriting invasive plant removal and restoring 1.8 acres of prior agricultural land. Local civic, business, church and school groups continue to help plant, mulch and weed the 900 thriving native California plants.
Preserve Calavera’s public outreach and education program in 2008 also included three wildlife events on birds of prey, the coyote, and amphibians and reptiles. With this yearly series, Preserve Calavera hopes to encourage our community to understand the importance of preserving this area’s priceless biodiversity.
Preserve Calavera has identified other open space that must be preserved for our wildlife to survive. Preservation of natural lands is seen as a top priority by Carlsbad citizens as well. In 2002, more than 82 percent of Carlsbad voters passed Proposition C to set aside monies for acquisition of open space. To date, however, Carlsbad has not spent one cent to acquire open space. Preserve Calavera, with the help of the local community, has moved ahead to fill this governmental void. They have established the restricted Rosebrook Land Acquisition Fund at the San Diego Foundation to continue to purchase natural land for us and future generations. Although land in North County is costly, the current economic downturn provides a unique opportunity to move forward with open space acquisition.
Preserve Calavera also advocates for development that protects our natural resources. Working with developers, it reviews plans and environmental impact reports to ensure that the maximum natural habitat, wildlife movement, and creek protection is provided in accordance with environmental law.
Preserve Calavera is an all-volunteer organization that would welcome your expertise and invites you to participate in any of its multi-faceted endeavors. Come on a hike, help restore the Buena Vista Creek Valley, do a wildlife survey or find your own way to get out and enjoy the rich natural resources of North County. For more information or if you would like to contribute to the Rosebrook Fund, visit or call Diane Nygaard, president of Preserve Calavera, at (760) 724-3887. You may register online to receive Preserve Calavera’s monthly e-mail newsletter.

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