California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Crestridge Ecological Reserve - San Diego County

Fire Update

In October/November of 2003, three of the worst fires in California history engulfed southern California. The majority of the Crestridge Ecological Reserve, about 80% of the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, and a small portion of the Boden Canyon Ecological Reserve burned. The vegetation will resprout and the wildlife will return, and the ecosystems will be surprisingly rich over the next few years. However in the immediate and near future, the areas are more vulnerable in this post-fire condition so we ask that visitors to these areas pay special attention to staying on designated trails and staying out of designated closed areas to allow the natural regeneration to occur. More information on the southern California fires can be found here.

General Location

2,638 acres; located approximately 3 miles east of the City of El Cajon, and due north of the community of Crest. The ER is bounded on the north by Interstate 8, on the east by Harbison Canyon, on the south by Mountain View and La Cresta Roads, and on the southwest by La Cresta Road

Outdoor California Article: "Crestridge Ecological Reserve survives vandalism with help of volunteers" by Ann Hennessey © 2003

Maps

Below you can find maps of the Crestridge Ecological Reserve.

Directions

To reach the primary entrance, off of Highway 8, exit at Greenfield Drive, head southeast. Turn left on La Cresta Road, turn left on Mountain View, turn left on Horsemill Road and enter the ER at the end of the cul-de-sac. A visitor kiosk will provide maps and pamphlets with information about the ER.

Purpose of Acquisition

Property acquisition began in 1995 and continues to the present. Acquisition has been accomplished through several mechanisms, including establishment of a Conservation Bank by the previous landowner, Gatlin Corporation and The Nature Conservancy (TNC); donation of portions to CDFW from TNC; donation of a 260-acre portion by the County Water Authority; and outright acquisition with Habitat Conservation Funds (Proposition 117) by the Wildlife Conservation Board.

Background/Property History

(Prepared by the Conservation Biology Institute for the Crestridge Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan)

The Crestridge property, also known locally as "Oakridge," was part of a Mexican land grant known as El Cajon de San Diego, or Rancho El Cajon. The name, "the box," referred to the pass between two hills. The original land grant consisted of 48,800 acres, the third largest land grant in San Diego County, and ultimately became the site of El Cajon, Lakeside, Santee, Bostonia, and Flinn Springs. The original boundaries of the rancho, roughly, were La Mesa on the west, Mt. Helix on the south, Camp Elliott on the north, and El Monte Park on the east (Moyer and Pourade 1969). The land was granted in September 1845 by Pio Pico to Maria Antonia Estudillo de Pedrorena (Aviña 1976). Señora Pedrorena and her family built houses and corrals for their stock and harvested large crops from the land (Pourade 1963). Miguel Pedrorena died in 1850 and was buried in Old Town. His heirs began to dispose of their land during the Civil War (Moyer and Pourade 1969).

The Cornelius family owned much of the Rancho south of existing Interstate 8 in the early 20th century and raised beef and milk cows there, mostly on the area that is now an avocado grove and not part of the reserve. Mrs. Cornelius purchased the original water system for Crest from the army camp at Campo. The Cornelius's named the oak grove area "Mary Jane Park," in memory of their daughter who died as a child. Sometime before World War II, Colonel Ed Fletcher bought the "S" Tract of Rancho El Cajon from the Cornelius family. Fletcher used the property as a retreat for his family (Fletcher 1952). During World War II, the area was used by the Searchlight Battalion of soldiers. Officers' quarters and a recreation hall were built in the vicinity of the oak grove. Some of these structures remain today.

Mr. Buck Rickles worked for the Ed Fletcher Company, Inc. from 1963 to 1976 and raised his family on the property. Mr. Rickles supplied much of the information for this history of the property. He and Mr. Waller, who was the handyman for the Ed Fletcher Company, had cows, horses, and various other livestock, mostly in the area of the avocado grove, which is not now part of the reserve. Mr. Waller cleared the area that is now the annual grassland north of the oak grove on the reserve, erected fences, and used it to raise quarter horses. None of the rest of the property has been cleared.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, plans were approved for a residential development of more than 1,350 homes on the site. In 1989, the land was owned by Lawrence Malanfant, who planned an extensive community encompassing 2,000 homes, a golf course, lake, and sewer plant, which did not come to fruition. In the 1990s, Gatlin Development (Gatlin) planned to build 92 homes on about 450 acres and to designate about 1,500 acres as open space. This plan was approved by the County of San Diego.

In response to the development proposals, the citizens of Crest formed the Crest Open Space Supporters and the Back Country Land Trust to advocate conservation of the property as open space and incorporation into the MSCP preserve system. The Endangered Habitats League also had a role in assuring conservation of the property.

In 1995, Gatlin established the Crestridge Conservation Bank on approximately 1,100 acres of the property, with the potential to add another approximately 1,400 acres to the bank. At the urging of the BCLT, other environmental groups, and the CDFW, TNC purchased the entire property, and in 1999 the Wildlife Conservation Board purchased the property from TNC. These properties now comprise the Crestridge Ecological Reserve, administered by the CDFW. TNC continues to sell mitigation credits, with the proceeds going toward additional acquisitions and an endowment for habitat management on the reserve.