Sunday, November 29, 2015 • 11:32

Palomar Mountain reaches fund drive goal

January 08, 2014
A representative from Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park recently announced the group has reached its fundraising goal intended to keep the park alive and functioning following state budget cuts that threatened to close down the popular park.

The Survive and Thrive fund drive attained the $80,000 goal late in December, according to Rick Barclay, chairman of the group.

"The gap was slowly eroding although it wasn't decreasing fast enough. We were $14,000 away from our goal until Christmas Eve day," said Barclay. That morning a $9,000 donation was received superseding the goal by reaching a total of $91,325. The Wilson Family Foundation matched the fund challenge which was also matched by the State. If only a portion had been raised, the balance would have been forfeited to other parks standing in line.

"We happened to get to the trough first," Barclay said about fulfilling the obligation of setting aside money earmarked for Palomar Mountain Park.

In July 2012, 54 million was found in an account within State Parks, but only 20 million belonged to the Department of Parks and Recreation. The rest belonged to the Department of Off-Highway Vehicles.

"Once the money was found, that created new dissatisfaction with the way things were being run," said Barclay. "Now the public is more divided than two years ago when more people wanted to save parks."

California State Parks Department is under new management. Described as being solid in skills and integrity, Director General Anthony L. Jackson has been in office for a year and positive changes are expected including creating vast improvements in the park.

Funds were raised not only to keep the park open daily with full services but also to make the park beautiful.

"We're in good shape," Barclay said about the money set aside for the list of accomplishments although the park is short-staffed.

Improvements include maintaining hiking trails, replacing signs on the popular self-directed trails, and re-surfacing the parking lot. The amphitheater, where the ranger and interpreter present programs, needs painting and refurbishing.

There are very lengthy lead times involved in anything disturbing the earth or impacting flora and fauna such as maintaining hiking trails or improving Doane Pond.

"This makes it frustrating but good," Barclay said about the State Park's policy to protect every inch of the park.

Environmental scientists will query what will be done to make the improvement prior to any work beginning. Archaeologists want to be certain that cultural heritage such as Native American sites aren't disturbed.

"Botanists and biologists look over our shoulder to make certain changes aren't doing more harm than good," Barclay said. "… Checks and balances can be frustrating but necessary."

California is very strict when preserving state park habitats and cultural heritage such as the unique mortero. Morteros, found throughout the park, consist of indentions formed into perfect bowl shapes carved from large granite rocks created when Native Americans pounded stones to ground their diet staple of acorns.

Palomar Park comprises 1,862 acres dedicated to hiking, camping, fishing at Doane Pond, and breath-taking views that allow you to see as far as Catalina Island. Boucher Summit is very important for fire protection because of the incredible view. Located on the summit, the historical fire tower of the 1900's has been refurbished within the past three years to a fully-functioning fire tower staffed by volunteers during fire season.

Recalling the catastrophic 2007 fire that burned 65% of the park, fire remains a constant threat due to the huge fuel load of brush and tree limbs. Small fires don't burn hot or the tree canopy, burning only brush whereas catastrophic fires that are not a part of nature are more destructive. Fortunately, Palomar was able to bounce back from the 2007 devastation unlike Cuyamaca Park in which 99% of the forest was burned which, according to experts, will take 200 years to return to what it once was.

Likewise, the weather has affected the park.

"It is going through a dry spell. Streams and creeks are not flowing as well. Some trees are weak." Barclay said noting more rain is needed even if it keeps people away.

Barclay encourages people to make a New Year's resolution to visit the park bringing the kids and friends.

Although the fund drive goal has been achieved, contributions of any amount to support the cause are welcome. Fully tax-deductible, donations are accepted by credit card at or mail check contributions to Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park, P.O. Box 91, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060.

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