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Take to the Hills

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
July 26, 1999


When talking about the Los Angelezation of San Diego County, most concerned citizens are referring to the increase of sprawl and the resulting traffic. Some are commenting on rising levels of air and water pollution. After hearing of a proposal to decapitate another mountain, it seems clear that Los Angelezation is happening in a geological sense as well.

North County is no stranger to the grade and fill mentality of developers. Gone are the rolling hillsides that gave our region it's character. The most startling evidence of this are the hills lining Interstate 5 and the 805 just south of the merge. Whether it is Carmel Mountain in Del Mar, Bernardo Mountain in Escondido, or Mount Marron in Carlsbad. The human contribution to erosion would make a person think that North County planners have adopted a Flat Earth policy.

Scraping hillsides and mountain tops, are as final as the deforestation of South American Rainforests, perhaps even more so. Rainforests worldwide are cleared for grazing, agriculture and timber, yet they are spared the injustice of asphalt and cement. Here in Southern California we are squandering our natural resources in such a way as to leave our communities unsustainable, and our future in paradise at risk.

To build homes we scrape away top soil, to build hotels we remove bluffs. We scrape, shape, fill, terrace, grade, and backfill to place everything from storage units to sport parks in such a way that serves human needs, all at the expense of our natural community. Instead of adapting our lives to fit our environment, we manipulate the environment to fit our lifestyles. Somewhere between common sense and the common good, human beings have gone terribly wrong.

Residents of Escondido should be commended for trying to save what they see as a precious resource. Their effort to preserve the 232 acre Bernardo Mountain is a noble one, as is any effort promoting the preservation of open space. Now is the time for all Escondido residents to be heard in regards to a forthcoming Environmental Impact Report. The EIR will be prepared for an Orange County developer bearing the misnomer of Environment Now, but it should reflect the needs of the community.

The net worth of 42 homes, pales in comparison to the value of the Bernardo Mountain left as native habitat. Currently passive use of this site coexists with abundant wildlife. Homes on this hill will mean the the introduction of house cats to the area which will then decimate native bird populations, in turn to be preyed upon by displaced coyotes. Passive parks are in short supply in San Diego's North County, Escondido should jump at the chance to leave a lasting legacy.

One thing that strikes me as odd is the way modern culture establishes boundaries. Acknowledging natural boundaries only when hard pressed to do so, we surround ourselves with arbitrary lines that do not recognize the difference between wetlands and forest, desert and chaparral. These borders only pertain to humans, and it is here that we will likely find our downfall. When we bulldoze habitat we are invading biotic communities, with as much respect for the inhabitants as Hitler had for the rest of Europe. And we know how that ended.

The days of reckless development are numbered, hopefully the Escondido City Council will work on behalf of the people who elected them, and acquire Bernardo Mountain for all members of the Escondido community. Daily Ranch is an incredible treasure, and a wildlife habitat preserve overlooking Lake Hodges seems like the sensible next step.

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