FPUD works to ensure access to river trails

Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) is hosting meetings with community groups to ensure that their concerns are met as the escrow process moves forward on property involving the Santa Margarita River trails.

The 1,400-acre Santa Margarita river property was placed into escrow so it could be transferred to the Western Rivers Conservancy, with the end goal of holding the property in perpetuity as a conservation easement with Camp Pendleton. The FPUD board has stated that it would not finalize the property sale unless it is convinced that there is a proposed stewardship agreement that allows for currently existing trails to be accessible to the public.

One of the items recently discussed at a special board meeting for FPUD was an update on an overall water supply project, said Brian Brady.

“We have reviewed the status of the sales agreement, and now we’re into an escrow period,” said Brady. “We hope that Western Rivers will do their due diligence and will also develop another partner in purchasing. They will also include a long-term stewardship contract so that the board can assure the community that the trails will remain open in perpetuity.”

There have been several meetings and workshops scheduled by the FPUD board to discuss the board’s latent powers.

“Active participation from the equestrian groups, including two from Temecula, have lent their support for hiking and non-motorized activities on the trails,” said Brady.

The Trails Council, along with other non-profit organizations interested in the continuing use of the trails, have expressed a positive opinion regarding the FPUD board’s interaction throughout the escrow process thus far.

“We are encouraged, but it is critical that when escrow closes and the deed passes to the new owner, there needs to be a plan for the preservation of existing public non-motorized multi-use recreational access, including equestrian access in the form of a public access plan,” said Donna Gebhart of the Trails Council. “The public access plan may include terms and conditions to protect property and wildlife resources, but shall retain a basic floating trail system that is consistent with existing uses and conditions. The public access plan shall include provisions to ensure permanent public access to the property by way of recorded and enforceable public access easements and also shall be included as a part of the long term steward agreement.”

The board has been very active with the non-profits, said Brady, and is working to continue the maintenance of the property through the transfer process.

“We have an ongoing, working relationship with the Trails Council, and have talked with them on a weekly basis,” said Brady. “From FPUD’s point of view, the goals [of the property sale] are multiple. One is of course to receive the value for the property sale in order to pay for a good portion of our water supply project for customers. Secondly, we want to assure there is a permanent conservation easement in perpetuity that’s ironclad.”

Gebhart stated it is import that everyone who uses the trails attend the meetings to express the importance of an ironclad agreement.

“It is very important that everybody who hikes, rides and bikes the valley come to the meetings and express to the board the importance of including the very critical language in order for Fallbrook to be able to retain this incredible recreational area as the crown jewel of Fallbrook, as well as the number one trails system this year by San Diego Magazine in the County of San Diego,” she said, adding that community members should attend any upcoming workshops.

FPUD will be holding a workshop on Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. at the FPUD office is at 990 E. Mission Rd., Fallbrook.to discuss whether or not the board will apply for latent powers to provide park and recreation service to the Fallbrook area, potentially including the Santa Margarita Trails.

Leave a Reply