Lakeside, CA- April 10, 2017- On Friday, Lakeside’s River Park Conservancy (LRPC) closed escrow on the Caster Pond, 6.05 acres of wetland and riparian forest alongside the San Diego River in Lakeside. This acquisition is a result of the long-standing partnership the Conservancy has with Serving Hands International, the philanthropic arm of The Caster Group. The $181,000 purchase was made possible through a grant from the State of California’s Environmental Enhancement Mitigation Program.
“This acquisition enhances the ecological integrity of our local community while playing an important role for the future of recreation in San Diego County,” said Executive Director, Robin Rierdan. “I am pleased that we were able to protect this land from development pressures, and this will allow us to provide increased opportunities for people to enjoy it.”
Known locally as the Caster Pond or Cactus Pond, the land is anchored by San Diego County’s Cactus Park and Cactus BMX Park, just east of Highway 67 in Lakeside. Prior to purchase, the Caster Pond was closed to the public and misused by trespassers for illegal activity. For many years, Serving Hands International has given the Conservancy right of entry permits, which has allowed volunteers to enter the property to remove trash, map invasive plant species and identify illegal camps.
Once restored, the land will allow equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers access to the main San Diego River trail, in addition to the county’s bike path. It will also connect the East County Equestrian Foundation with the San Diego River Trail. “It is a critical link along the river that will connect two portions of the trail, and move us one step closer to reaching our goal of a 52-mile long trail from the mountains to the ocean,” said Rierdan.
Part of the conservation efforts on the Caster Pond property will include removing non-native plant species like Arundo donax, which also lowers the risk of fire in East County. Preservation of the site will also help
strengthen the diversity of wildlife that rely upon wetland habitats to survive. This includes many threatened and endangered bird species like the least Bell’s vireo, Vireo Bellii pusillus. This area is also part of the Pacific Flyway, and many migratory and wintering birds like the yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata, use this habitat for nesting, roosting and foraging.
The public is invited to enjoy the newly-acquired property in celebration of Earth Day at the 15th annual Creek to Bay Cleanup on Saturday, April 22nd, 9am-12pm. There will be an open house and a volunteer cleanup in partnership with I Love A Clean San Diego, the Kiwanis Club of San Diego, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. For those participating in the cleanup, please bring gloves, sunscreen and a water bottle. Please RSVP and sign up for Zone 4: East County, Lakeside – Vine Street.
Lakeside’s River Park Conservancy was established in 2001. Our mission is to preserve and restore the biological integrity and beauty of the San Diego River while incorporating recreational, educational, and cultural opportunities for youth, seniors, families and citizens of East San Diego County.
Robin Rierdan, Executive Director