West Sycamore: New Recreation Area

The newest addition to the Mission Trials Regional Park (MTRP) is none other than the West Sycamore area, located at the very east end of Stonebridge Parkway. It is a beautiful mix of chaparral and coastal sage scrub plant communities and supports a large variety of animals and plants—from the threatened barrel cactus to the occasional mountain lion. The West Sycamore area encompasses 1,372 acres and includes seven miles of trails to be explored by hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding.

The staging area has parking, a port-a-potty, and hitching posts for equestrian use. The gates to the park are open 8 am to 5 pm from Nov. 1 through Mar. 11; and 8 am to 7 pm from Mar. 12 through Oct. 31. There is a ranger station on the premises, and rangers Andrew Miller and Araceli Dominguez patrol the area and complete projects multiple times a week.

The ranger station, which currently does not have water or electricity, acts as an office and not as a visitor center, with set hours of operation at this time. If you visit the park and see either of the rangers, feel free to go in and ask questions.

Join Ranger Miller on the third Sunday of every month at 8 am for a 90-minute guided nature walk to learn about the native plants and wildlife. Bring water and meet by the ranger trailer at the staging area. If you are considering giving back to this beautiful area of MTRP, on the first Sunday of the month at 8 am, weather permitting, you can volunteer to work on projects such as park beautification, habitat restoration, trail work, and more!

The West Sycamore area is part of the 7,219-acre MTRP managed by the city of San Diego. The park’s future includes building more trails to create a loop system, a picnic area, and planting a native garden.

So how did the West Sycamore area of MTRP evolve into what it is today? Prior to being part of a large open space park, the land was owned by General Dynamics. During the Cold War General Dynamics had several underground bunkers that housed nuclear warheads and other structures on the property, all of which have been demolished.

On July 19, 2001, with the approval of the San Diego City Council, the property was acquired by the city through an “Extraordinary Benefits Agreement” with Sycamore Estates. Under the agreement, it was obligated to preserve the land so it could develop what is now StoneBridge Estates. The city of San Diego decided the land should be managed under the Mission Trails Regional Park and so it was named “Mission Trails North.”

Eventually the name changed to West Sycamore because the park property is just west of Goodan Ranch/Sycamore Canyon Preserve managed by San Diego County. Finally on Dec. 17, 2014, City Council members Scott Sherman and Mark Kersey were joined by Park and Recreation staff, Citizens Advisory Committee chair Dorothy Leonard, and community leaders for the ribbon-cutting that officially opened West Sycamore to the public.

I would like to tell you a little bit about our park rangers, who you will hopefully have a chance to meet. Andrew Miller (below) graduated from San Diego State with a degree in recreation and tourism management and an emphasis on outdoor resource management. Prior to joining the Mission Trails staff he worked at several parks including Big Sur State Park and Yellowstone National Park. When not working he enjoys hiking, surfing, spear fishing, and camping.

Ranger Araceli Dominguez graduated from Cal State Channel Islands with a degree in environmental science and resource management. She joined Mission Trails Park staff in 2014 and previously worked for the state parks, the Marine Sanctuary, and Channel Islands Restoration. When not busy at the park she enjoys water activities and likes to camp, hike, bake, and garden.

Here’s what the rangers would like to see for the future of West Sycamore:

  • More guided nature walks
  • More visitors…that means you!
  • Increased habitat restoration
  • More involvement by Scripps Ranch residents, which would include volunteering as trial guides, trail patrol members, and for MTRP’s monthly volunteer groups

The entire community is invited to come enjoy this beautiful local area of MTRP and learn about West Sycamore. Park rangers ask that you follow park rules posted at the entrance. While cooler weather is on the way, be sure to bring extra water on warm days. Please stay on designated trails at all times and respect the park and your fellow park visitors!

Barbara Perkins, SRCA Sycamore Canyon Park Liaison

[Editor’s note: Barbara is the Scripps Ranch Civic Association’s volunteer representative to the Mission Trails Regional Park Citizen Advisory Board.]