News – Events

Upcoming Events:


October 2018

Sandia Creek Trailhead will be closed Oct. 22. Opening again possibly on Oct. 25 if there are no problems. They will be expanding the parking area.


By   The Vista Press /  October 1, 2018

 Assemblymember Marie Waldron — The Santa Margarita River Preserve in Fallbrook is a unique bit of Southern California landscape in my Assembly District that will remain wild and free in perpetuity.  Having hiked along the river trail system many times, I was very happy to assist in obtaining the funding that allows the transfer of the property from the Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) to the Wildlands Conservancy, California’s largest nonprofit preserve system.

It’s great to help local projects that benefit our region. I was very happy to advocate for funding to the California State Coastal Conservancy and to the Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. I also testified before the Budget Committee and presented a “budget ask” requesting funding so that the ownership transfer could move forward.

Funding for local parks, environmental and water infrastructure projects became available when voters approved Proposition 68 in June, a $4.1 billion bond measure. However, to secure funding, local agencies must submit bids and go through a vigorous vetting process, essentially competing with other worthy projects from throughout the state. As a result of a lot of diligence and hard work by the Fallbrook Public Utilities District, the Wildlands Conservancy and the Fallbrook Trails Council, $10 million was allocated through the budgeting process to transfer ownership of the 1,384-acre property from FPUD to the Conservancy. The Fallbrook Trails Council will continue to manage the Preserve, which it has overseen for the past 20 years.

Fortunately, all of our efforts were successful. As a result, the Santa Margarita River Preserve, which attracts tens of thousands of hikers, horseback riders and cyclists each year, will forever remain one of the premier recreational, environmental and scenic treasures of our region.

Minority Floor Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.

 Minority Floor Leader Assemblymember Marie Waldron, AD 75, 350 W 5th Avenue #110, Escondido, CA 92025 –  760-480-7570

September 2018

Shared from Marie Waldron, State Assemblymember — California State Assemblymember for District 75

Celebrating the Santa Margarita River Preserve thanks to Fallbrook Public Utilities District, The Wildlands Conservancy, & the Fallbrook Trails Council. Honored to have advocated to Assembly budget committee for the $10 million allocation!

Click here to see the Village Newsmakers Podcast on the Santa Margarita River transfer of ownership party!

August 2018 Clean up at the River Trails — at Santa Margarita River

The organization called “I Love a Clean San Diego” came out on August 12, 2018 to help clean up our river trails.  
Headed up by members of the Trails Council Dave & Stephanie Baxter they did a great job in making the valley a nicer place to visit. Thank you from the Trails Council to ILACSD for helping us keep the valley clean.

May 2018 Our heartfelt thanks goes out to the Fallbrook Public Utility Board and the Wildlands Conservancy for making the YES vote a reality for the Purchase/Sale of the Santa Margarita River Valley. President of the Board, Al Gebhart, arranged a tour of one of Wildlands Preserves for the Board to see what a great organization they are, and needless to say, that was icing on the cake!! We are very fortunate that Members of the Board knew how important this was for our community!

We thank all the equestrians, hikers and bicyclists who attended the meetings for the last two years to show your support for our Wonderful Trails!

The Trails Council will have a management agreement with The Wildlands Conservancy for our trail easements, and the Trails Council will still be responsible to raise the funds and maintain all the trail easements as we have for the last 19 years.

Going forward I have been fortunate enough to have Craig Crandall in our group agree to be the Trail Coordinator for maintenance of the trails. THIS IS WHERE WE NEED ALL OF YOUR HELP. We have 18 miles of beautiful trails and it takes a team to maintain them. For all of you out there who use the trails, if you would email Craig at to volunteer to work on the trails during the week or on weekends. Now is the time we need your help to get the valley ready for the season.

Thanks again and Happy Trails!

Donna Gebhart, Chair
Fallbrook Trails Council

April 2018 Spring Clean Up was small on volunteers but we got the job done. Many thanks to Craig Crandell for taking on the organizing of this event. Thanks to Donna Gebhart for filling in all the gaps to make this successful and Al Gebhart for getting the equipment ready. Thank you Zack Kantor-Anaya from Wildlands Conservancy for continuing to help us with the work in the valley and being there to work. Thank you to the volunteers that come out to work and make our trials safe for all to enjoy. Thanks also goes to Sherri Lenfers, Donna Kramer and Jane Comella for getting about 150 proposition 68 postcards signed as well as setting up lunch under the umbrellas so when the tired workers came in we could enjoy sitting in the shade. All in all it was a very productive day at the river! Thanks again to everyone who helped make this day a success.

Ron gassing up the weed-eater. Working on the “fingers” trail on the north side.

The finishing crew following the weed-eaters manicuring the trails.

Before the weed-eaters came thru…..

After the weed-eaters went thru and before the ladies finished off the trails.

Working on cleaning up the winter weeds that were trying to take over the trails.

Lunch in the shade after a successful morning of working on the trails. Thank you to all those who came out to help us keep the trails in shape. You guys are the best!


Past Events:

UPDATE—- We are happy to announce that on April 30, 2018, the Fallbrook Public Utility Board voted yes on the Purchase Sale/Agreement to The Wildlands Conservancy.

April 30, 2018

4:00 PM

The Fallbrook Public Utility District Board is having a meeting to vote on the Purchase/Sale Agreement with Wildlands Conservancy of the Santa Margarita River Valley, with the Fallbrook Trails Council being able to get our trail system easements filed at closing, with LOPC being the owner.  Please attend this public meeting and show your support for this vote to go through. FPUD is located at 990 East Mission, Fallbrook, CA.

April 21, 2018

8:00 AM – 12:00 Noon

We will be having the Spring Clean Up of our Santa Margarita Trail System and need volunteers to help us.

We need people with the ability to operate hedgers or weed wackers, carry gas and water, and someone who can walk behind with a rake or pitchfork and clean the trail after work is complete.

We will meet at Sandia Creek Trailhead. Please RSVP by sending a message through the Contact Us page or by texting 760-822-8530.

Feb 26, 2018

Santa Margarita Valley is on the Agenda at the Fallbrook Utility District Board meeting for the 26th of February, at 4 p.m. The Wildlands Conservancy has submitted to FPUD a Request for Proposal for the Valley. This is an extremely important meeting for everybody to be present for. This is a request to purchase the property. Please get the word out and plan to attend this meeting which is open to the public. FPUD’s address is 990 E. Mission Rd. Fallbrook Ca.

June 27, 2017

Update on the Santa Margarita River trails meeting last night at FPUD.

We had a great turnout and it was wonderful to see so many supportive people all with the same or similar cause to preserve our beautiful trails for public use and enjoyment. There were a small contingency of gentlemen who wanted to grant Western Rivers another 90 day extension but overall the hope was to put a stop to the going nowhere talks.

After much discussion, many people expressing their opinions and sharing their stories the board voted 3 (Wolk, Gebhart, Davies)  to 2 (McDougal, DeMeo) to allow the contract with Western Rivers to expire June 30th. This is after over a year-and-a-half of them trying to put multiple deals together with purchasers to accumulate the 10 million dollars that was needed for the conjunctive use project with Camp Pendleton to begin.

The problems arose when the feds or Fish and Game and Fish and Wildlife put so many restrictions on our Trail use that we were to lose the majority of our river crossings or have them closed for very long periods of time to allow the Arroyo Toad to move into the neighborhood and begin breeding. Please note the Arroyo Toad does not exist in the San Margarita River to date but they are hoping that it will so that that property becomes more valuable as mitigation land. The Bells Virio which is the bird that is endangered already exists in the valley, breeding and singing away. They also want to eradicate the beavers, bull frogs and crawdads because they’re not native to this river.

The efforts of the Fallbrook Trails Council have been intense and have required many many hours of scrutiny, negotiations with the different parties to try and put this together. Donna Gebhart specifically has championed this cause and held everyone together throughout the process. Unfortunately , the other parties were not willing to compromise for the plan to work for the community trail users.

This decision will allow the board to seek other funds to be able to move forward with the project and insure that we the community remain the caretakers of our wonderful trails at least for the time being. Fallbrook Trails Council has been working closely with Wildlands Conservancy and feels that they are the best organization to work with us as guardians of our river. This is a good thing.

Should the interested parties become more cooperative a deal could still come together with Western Rivers brokering the deal.

I hope this helps more people understand how intense and challenging this has been for almost 2 years.

Please stay tuned for more updates and share with your friends.

You can help the Trails Counsil maintain and repair our trails by volunteering and donating much needed funds.

Again, many thanks to everyone who attended last night’s meeting, it was critical and pivotal. Your efforts are so important.

June 23, 2017

Meeting on June 26th 4 p.m. Fallbrook Public Utility District, 990 E. Mission Rd. Fallbrook

There has been an Integrated Management Plan prepared by The Wildlands Conservancy if the sale is completed. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife made their comments concerning the plan and they included potential seasonal closings of more than one crossing, and they included 6, 7, 8 and 10. (Most of the crossings on the south side) Since we agreed to close crossing 5, it is not acceptable to have any other potential seasonal closures so riders and hikers cannot cross the river from the south to the north sides. That would tremendously affect the recreational aspect of our trail system to our community.

Also since fire season in San Diego County is September through February, we absolutely would not go out with weed whips to clear trails during that timeframe. Plus, if you hadn’t cleaned the trails in the April – May timeframe, the grasses would be extremely high, like this year, three to four feet high. By that time of year that would be an extreme fire hazard. In February 2002 and October 2007 the fires burned the valley. In 2002 it took 43 homes. In 2007 it took a lot more. I appreciate about being concerned about protecting habitat, but I also am about protecting Fallbrook from fires, as well as bringing visitors to Fallbrook for the great recreational area we enjoy.

We need your support to maintain the integrity of our Santa Margarita Trail System not only to our community but to all the visitors who come to visit Fallbrook.

This is a very, very important meeting for you to attend!

Happy Trails
Donna Gebhart
Fallbrook Trails Council

June 23, 2017

Dear Trail Users,

The Fallbrook Trails Council would like to request your support in the form of a donation to help us maintain our 18 miles of trails in the Santa Margarita River Trail System. The funds are utilized for supplies and to pay for the contract work with Cal Fire Crews and the workers we utilize to work on the projects and repairs on the river trails. There have been many projects completed this year to keep our trail system intact.

Currently, the Fallbrook Public Utility District is in the process of selling the Valley to Wildlands Conservancy as the Long Term Steward, with the Fallbrook Trails Council as the owner of the easements that will be placed on the Deed to preserve our trails. We have incurred attorney’s fees so far of $4000, and expect to incur more as the process moves forward. We need your help financially so our trail system will be preserved for hikers, equestrians and bikers. We are at a critical point these next 90 days, as the process should be closing in June. We are using the expertise of Mr. Wayne Brechtel, who is General Counsel for the San Diegito River Valley Regional Open Space Park Joint Powers Authority, and the Leucadia Wastewater District.

The usage by the community is in excess of 30,000 people a year and growing, and it is very important to keep the trails as safe as we can. We are trying to raise $10,000 to help us maintain our 18 miles of trails and pay for attorney’s fees to keep our trails in perpetuity.

You can either send us a check to:

Live Oak Park Coalition
Fallbrook Trails Council
P.O. Box 2974
Fallbrook, CA 92088 OR

Go onto and use Paypal for your donation.

Live Oak Park Coalition is a 501 (c) 3 Tax ID 33-0659436
Thank You

June 16, 2017

Saddle up! Santa Margarita River Trails will be open for the first time in 2017…tomorrow, Saturday June 17th! Equestrians get there early as the parking lot fills up quickly. Be careful as you’ll be the first large groups from the County parking lot in months. They have been out there clearing this week.
Remember, the Sandy Wash crossing at Sandia Creek has changed course and that’s where the quicksand is. You are being rerouted with marked trails.

Have fun out there this weekend and remember if you love these trails we need your help to keep them. Please come to the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s monthly meeting (990 E. Mission Rd.), on Monday June 26th at 4 pm. There will be an update on what is happening with the trails and we need community support in the form of bodies!!! Please be there at 4 pm,  we hope to have a packed room again. Let’s show the powers that be we haven’t given up on our trails and are still keeping an eye on them. It’s not a done deal by any means.

Happy Trails!

June 9, 2017

Trails Update:

The Santa Margarita Preserve ranger has stated that they plan on opening the Preserve and main horse staging area on Saturday, June 17th

Our volunteers were out on Wednesday and Thursday this week, checking and marking the crossings. Thanks to volunteers Ron, Bert, Craig and Lorinda. One crossing is now open at Sandia Creek. Please pay attention to the signs and stay between markers in the river. Any deviations could land you in belly deep sand. This is the first crossing once you leave the Sandia Creek parking lot. The second is not open. Santa Margarita County Preserve crossings have not been checked by the Trails Council, so please use common sense and good judgement. Thank you everyone for your patience and be safe.

From the North Side of the River looking towards the Parking Lot
From the North Side of the River looking towards the Parking Lot
From the South Side of the River same side as the Parking Lot
From the South Side of the River same side as the Parking Lot
Sign at main trail
Sign just past the cut off on main trail to indicate next crossing is closed

June 5, 2017

The workshop meeting at Fallbrook Public Utility District has been cancelled on June 8th and the Santa Margarita River presentation will be at the regularly scheduled meeting on Monday the 26th of June at 4 p.m. at FPUD. Please get the word out and plan to attend this public meeting.  We need the public to come to show support for our trails.  Thank you.

June 2, 2017


There will be a workshop on THURSDAY June 8th at 4 P.M. at Fallbrook Public Utility District, 990 E. Mission Rd, Fallbrook,( and the Santa Margarita Trails will be on the agenda.  The stakeholders will all be present and will be making presentations to the Board concerning the sale of the River Property.  This is a very important workshop to go to to express your feelings on why the Trail System is important to you and to our community and to ask questions of the stakeholders.  Your attendance is very important.


May 19, 2017

On May 22nd at 4 p.m. at the Fallbrook Public Utility Building, 990 E. Mission Rd.,( there will be their monthly meeting, and the Santa Margarita all the Stakeholders, FPUD, Fallbrook Trails Council, The Wildlands Conservancy, Western Rivers Conservancy. THIS WILL BE AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT MEETING FOR YOU TO ATTEND!!  
We also went out with the County, Ranger Tom and District Manager Jake, to assess our crossings to the trail system from the Sandia Creek Parking lot today, and we are still finding quicksand in the areas you would need to cross to get into the trail system. We took a 5′ PVC pipe and it is still going in 4 1/2 feet in traveled spots you would need to cross from the south side to the north side of the Trail system. OUR TRAILS ARE REMAINING CLOSED

The Santa Margarita Preserve as well as our trails are remaining closed till the sand in the river settles more. We check it every week.


April 20, 2017

Testing the sand at one of the first crossings Thursday evening, April 20th, Al has a 5 foot pole and in these pictures he is showing how far down it goes into the sand.  He tried it at different areas.  This means the sand has not settled and it is still not safe to cross with horses.  The crossing will be tested again in a week or two.  The trails are still closed to horses at this time for safety reasons.  The Deluz staging area and the county park are  still closed as well.  Thank you for your understanding.


April 6, 2017

We, the Fallbrook Trails Council, have been very hard at work pulling all the 18+ miles of trails together after the worst rain damage the trails have seen in 15+ years! Most of our trails are finished and ready to go. The dangerous problem is the water crossings!! Once the County opens up the Horse Staging area the two water crossings after crossing the street to enter the FPUD trail system ARE NOT CROSSABLE!! Please do not try…they look good but there is very deep quicksand and you will get stuck or hurt! 

It is best to wait a few more weeks and allow the sand to pack in and settle before anyone comes to the trails. We will check it again mid-month (April 16) and let everyone know the status at that time. If you do go to the staging area and it is open please ride on the 2 mile loop they have provided at the county park area and do not cross the street…the county is clearing their trails and will open when their side is safe. This does not mean our end is safe – we will keep the FPUD trails closed to horses until the quicksand crossings are safe. Keep tuned for more info.

On another note we have spent over $5,000 so far on repairs and trail damage. We have held one work day with 30+ volunteers. We will hold one more work day in May and really need your help. If you ride these trails PLEASE help us by either donating money or sweat! We need both. There will be another important FPUD meeting on the sale of the property coming up in May I will send out a notice beforehand. Thanks so much.


Upcoming Events:


Past Events:

The Fallbrook Trails Council would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers that came out on Saturday, March 18, 2017 to help work on the trails. Hopefully we will be able to get them open again in the next two to three weeks. We had a huge success. We still have a lot to get cleaned up from the flooding we had. The guys have started weed whacking yesterday, starting at the north side and moving slowly toward the View Point Crossing. A lot of weed whacking was done on the northside from View point to Rose Crossing Saturday. We still need some volunteers to help during the week when they work, because there usually is only two of them for carrying gas and raking the trails. The trail down from Cinco Arroyo to the switchbacks also needs Mc Leod work and weed whipping as well, and the north end of the canyon needs a lot of the above.

We want to thank Denso Manufacturing for the volunteers that came out to help.

Also The Wildlands Conservancy sent 4 of their rangers out to help us as well. Thank you so much!!

We also still have the trail that comes from the Santa Margarita County Preserve, from the FPUD sign saying you are entering FPUD land to the Sandia Creek Crossing. That will need the weed whipping of the by-pass trail, and ribbons have been placed where the trail needs to be repaired with mc leods and rakes, and a few small trees cut down.

If you can help, it would be greatly appreciated. Please email me or call 760-822-8530.

A Special thanks to my husband, Al, who has maintained all of our tools all of these years, and keeps them up and running, which over the last 19 years has saved our group thousands of dollars.

 Saturday, March 18th, 2017

We will be having a workday on Saturday, March 18th at 8 a.m. till Noon at the Sandia Creek Trailhead.  Because of the rains, we have had a lot of damage to the 18 miles of trails that we manage.  We will need volunteers to be able to use shovels, mc clouds, rakes, chain saws,  (only need a few for that) being able to move brush off the trail, and weed whips to clear the high grass off the trail as well.  Some crews will be used to cross the river in places, and tamp the sand to make sure it is safe to cross.  Please bring gloves and shoes to cross the water.

Our location is, take the Fallbrook exit off of 15 and head west into Fallbrook about 4 miles.  Take a right turn on Pico (right past the light at Mission and Main), which becomes Deluz Road.  You will come to a fork  in the road, and you will want to stay right onto Sandia Creek Road.  Drive about a mile, and before you cross the river you will see the Trailhead and parking area.

We do provide lunch and water for our volunteers.

January 31, 2017

The recent rains have caused extensive damage to the river trails and crossings therefore the Santa Margarita River Trails are closed to the public until further notice. The area has become very unsafe so please do not venture onto the trails. The staging areas are closed. We are working as quickly and safely as we can to restore the trails. Thank you for understanding.

Downed tree blocking trail access.
Trail to Willow Glen crossing washed out.
Trees down and washed out trail leading to unsafe water crossing.
Washed out trails.
Water erosion causing unstable trails.


December 13, 2016
Dear Trail User,

The Fallbrook Trails Council would like to request your support in the form of a donation to help us maintain our 18 miles of trails in the Santa Margarita River Trail System. The funds are utilized for supplies and to pay for the contract work with Cal Fire Crews and the workers we utilize to work on the projects and repairs on the river trails.  There have been many projects completed this year to keep our trail system intact.

Currently, the Fallbrook Public Utility District is in the process of selling the Valley to Wildlands Conservancy as the Long Term Steward, with the Fallbrook Trails Council as the owner of the easements that will be placed on the Deed to preserve our trails.  We have incurred attorney’s fees so far of $4000, and expect to incur more as the process moves forward.  We need your help financially so our trail system will be preserved for hikers, equestrians and bikers.  We are at a critical point these next 90 days, as the process should be closing in June. We are using the expertise of Mr. Wayne Brechtel, who is General Counsel for the San Diegito River Valley Regional Open Space Park Joint Powers Authority, and the Leucadia Wastewater District.

The usage by the community is in excess of 30,000 people a year and growing, and it is very important to keep the trails as safe as we can. We are trying to raise $10,000 to help us maintain our 18 miles of trails and pay for attorney’s fees to keep our trails in perpetuity.

You can either send us a check to:

Live Oak Park Coalition
Fallbrook Trails Council
P.O. Box 2974
Fallbrook, CA 92088   OR  Go onto the Donations page and use Paypal for your donation.

Thank You,
Donna Gebhart, Chair

FPUD Board Meeting  December 12  4:00 pm

The Fallbrook Public Utility District is having their Board Meeting on Monday, Dec. 12th at 4 p.m., and there is going to be a complete update on the Purchase-Sale Agreement of the Santa Margarita Valley Trail System with Western Rivers Conservancy.  The Assistant General Manager, Jack Bebee, Peter Colby from Western Rivers, The Wildlands Conservancy and the Fallbrook Trails Council all will be giving updates on the progress of the agreements and the sale.  We all have been working on the Restrictive Use Easement and the Integrated Resource Management Agreement.  The package has been submitted to the funding agencies.

FPUD Board Meeting  October 24  4:00 pm

The next board meeting for Fallbrook Public Utility District will be held on October 24th at 4 pm. This should be a good meeting for the public to attend as there will be an update on the meeting that was held with all the involved agencies, concerning the progress of the Santa Margarita River Trails. There are many things going on to make sure our trails are preserved but the public presence is an important aspect to keep things going in the right directions so please if you use the trails get the word out and attend the board meeting. The address is 990 E. Mission Rd. here in Fallbrook. The meeting starts at 4 pm and is open to the public.

FPUD Board Meeting  July 25  4:00 pm

There is an upcoming board meeting at FPUD Monday afternoon, July 25th, at 4 pm.  It is open to the public and although the Santa Margarita River trails sale is not on the agenda and there will not be a vote at this meeting it is important to show a large community support for our trails so if you can come PLEASE be there.  There are some new details in the works on possible grants to assist in a better sales agreement option for the trail use.   The board meeting starts at 4 pm  and is held at Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) located at 990 E. Mission Rd. in Fallbrook.  Pass this on to all those who use the trails and come help us save our beautiful trails.

Santa Margarita River Trails Update:

Thanks to all of YOU we are almost there! It was moved forward by a standing board member to bring the issue of recording our multi-use trail easement on the deed to vote!! This vote will happen at the next board meeting. So needless to say we need to PACK the room! It will be a live vote during the meeting and there will be time for audience to speak for/against before the vote. Please fill out a card to speak and encourage them to vote YES!

Tell all your horsey friends, trail riders, hikers & bikers that they need to save the date. Our petition is at almost 2,000 signatures so perhaps we can get a few hundred to show up in person! Please pass this on to all interested groups!

Meeting: June 27th at 4:00 pm at the FPUD board room 990 E Mission Rd Fallbrook CA 92028

FPUD Board Meeting  May 23  4:00 pm

The next FPUD Board meeting will be on Monday May 23rd, at 4 pm.  The address is 990 E. Mission here in Fallbrook.  There is going to be a discussion for the new Ordinance that the board discussed last month concerning the Rules when you are riding, biking, or hiking the Santa Margarita Trail System.  Donna Gebhart will be giving an update on a grant and also on the tour that was done on part of the trail system with a Western Rivers representative.  There are many things going on and this meeting will help update people, so it is so important to come to this meeting.  Please pass the word around to riders, hikers, bikers and anyone who uses this wonderful trail system to please attend this public meeting, May 23rd, at 4pm.

 We need the public’s help!

The Santa Margarita Trails are in danger of being taken away forever. We have to make sure that FPUD records a legal easement on the deed to provide for non-motorized public trail use including equestrians, throughout the river valley property. This needs to be recorded as a floating trail easement on the Deed now versus prior to any sale closing. If left undone and negotiated at a later date, that could be tenuous. If you haven’t been on the Fallbrook Trails Council website to sign the petition we have going please do and just as important we need you and your friends who love these trails to come to the meetings, they are open to the public. The meetings are the 4th Monday of the month at FPUD at 4 pm,  990 E Mission Rd Fallbrook CA 92028. Be the voice that helps secure our trails for future generations. It is so important to continue to flood FPUD ( with letters, questions, and demands to make our trails secure.

Trail Work Day  April 16  8:00 am

We have set a work day on Saturday, 4/16/2016 at 8 am at Sandia Creek trailhead.  We will be going across the street and as far as we can towards the Santa Margarita large Staging Area. If anybody has weed whackers that they are willing to bring, that would be helpful.  We have a couple and also some hedgers.  We will be crossing the river several times.  Make sure you bring gloves.

January 25, 2016

Wow! We would like to thank everyone who came to the FPUD meeting tonight and spoke on behalf of the SMR trails. There were several different perspectives on why these trails are important and what they mean to those who use them. A lot of time and effort is being put into making sure the trails remain for generations to come so please continue to get the word out and sign the petition Thank you all again for your time and effort!

Western Rivers Conservancy November Blog

Western Rivers Conservancy made an important move toward conserving a key stretch of the Santa Margarita, one of the last free-flowing rivers in Southern California. By committing to purchase 1,384 acres of riverland we moved one step closer to creating an unbroken habitat corridor and a critical ecological link between the inland high desert, coastal Santa Ana Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

The Santa Margarita drains an arid region. It begins at the confluence of Murrieta Creek and Temecula Creek in Riverside County, before it carves through desert canyons and flows into its large floodplain at Camp Pendleton. Finally, the river enters the Pacific Ocean near Oceanside, just north of the Del Mar Marina.

With a higher flow than other streams in the region, the Santa Margarita provides key habitat for endangered Southern California steelhead. Camp Pendleton biologists have documented a remnant steelhead run in the lower river in recent years, and NOAA Fisheries ranks it as a Core 1 river, its highest priority rating for steelhead recovery. This alone gives the Santa Margarita national significance. The river also supports remnant populations of arroyo chub, a tiny omnivorous fish that’s disappearing from other California coastal streams.

The Santa Margarita nourishes a vast array of plants and wildlife, including the highest diversity and density of bird species in the Southern California coastal region. Birders regularly hike the river corridor, and the luckiest spot life-list species like endangered least Bell’s vireo, endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and the threatened California gnatcatcher.

WRC’s acquisition of these lands, which we will purchase from Fallbrook Public Utility District, will conserve five miles of the Santa Margarita and nearly two miles of Sandia Creek, a key tributary.
We are proud to be part of strengthening a vital link in a rare habitat corridor, and to launch a project that will benefit not just fish and wildlife, but the people of Southern California. Our efforts will help ensure compatible public access to a place that people have come to love, and to which they return to bird-watch, ride horses and walk along the banks of a clean and free-flowing river.

Spring Cleaning

(April 2015)

We had a great workday . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) performed service work under Milt Davies. They repaired the hiking trail and installed 7 benches. They did a great job!!!

LDS Work Crew

The Gordons cleaned under the old Oak tree at Willow Glenn and placed two of the new benches there. We had a bobcat and quads down in the canyon and got a tremendous amount completed. Again, a big thank you to Milt and all the wonderful volunteers that came out under his direction and did a phenomenal job.

Milt did a wonderful job organizing this, and the benches he made are beautiful.

Work Day
Work Day

The last of the survivors of the day, we are standing by our last bench installation!!  Al Gebhart, Arlene Eyerman, Linda Traut, Lee Traut, Milt Davies, Donna Gebhart, and Richard!

Kiosk Refurbished

(April 2015)

Kiosk Refurbished by Elijah of Boy Scout Troop 739
Kiosk Refurbished by Elijah of Boy Scout Troop 739

Elijah of Boy Scout Troop 739 refurbished our kiosk and installed it in a better location at the trailhead at Sandia Creek.  By the end of the day the new Trail Map created by Jeff Marchand of the FPUD, our new signs, and our pocket field guide were displayed on the kiosk.  Elijah did a great job!!

Completed Kiosk
Completed Kiosk

Fallbrook Trails Council merges with Live Oak Park Coalition

(March 19, 2015 Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News)

Volunteers with the Fallbrook Trails Council are, front from left, Linda Marshall, Lita Tabish, Jane Comella, and Sherri Lenfers; back row, Barbara and Bert Hayden, Joe Comella, Steve Hartshorn, Donna Gebhart, Al Gebhart, Jodi and Dave Gordon, Linda and Lee Traut, Beth Cobb, and Dianne Atkinson.

FALLBROOK – The Fallbrook Trails Council, which has maintained and repaired the Santa Margarita River trails for more than 25 years, is ending its affiliation with the Fallbrook Land Conservancy and has merged with the Live Oak Park Coalition.

The approximately 1400 acres with 14 miles of trails are actually privately owned by the Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD), but thanks to the work of the trails council, the scenic horseback and hiking paths are available for anyone to use.

The trails council, made up solely of volunteers, makes it possible for the trails to be open to the public. Through an agreement with FPUD, trails council members walk the paths and pick up trash, clear storm debris and make repairs as needed. They have also installed benches, picnic tables and hitching posts for horses throughout the trail system.

The merger with the nonprofit Live Oak Park Coalition will not change the scope of work or workload for the council, nor will it change the public accessibility of the trails. It will align the trails council with a larger pool of volunteers, and also with the Live Oak Dog Park group, which is also under the Live Oak Park Coalition.

Together, the coalition and the Live Oak Dog Park group are opening the first off-leash dog park in the county in March. The merger with the trails council combines three enthusiastic and very proactive community organizations.

Boy Scout Zach Schroeder, center, presents his Eagle Scout project proposal to Al Gebhart, left, and Donna Gebhart of the Fallbrook Trails Council; Zach plans to build a new kiosk for the Santa Margarita River Trails System.

The trails council has always raised all its own operating funds and 100 percent of donations have been applied directly to the trails’ upkeep and enhancements. Some of those include GPS safety markers on the trails, signage, maps and a pocket field guide to help hikers from getting lost on lengthy hikes.

Others also volunteer to clean up and help maintain the paths. Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts with Troop 739 are routinely working there.

Trails council members Al and Donna Gebhart recently attended the Court of Honor for Boy Scouts of America, Troop 739, Zion Lutheran Church. At that time, Scout Zach Schroeder presented the Gebharts with his Eagle Scout Project Proposal – to build a new kiosk for the Santa Margarita River Trails System.

Donna Gebhart said, “We are so excited to have such an enthusiastic group of Scouts to help us with the trails. Elijah Zepeda is going to be working on refurbishing the existing kiosk, which many years ago was an Eagle Scout Project. There are other Scouts that are putting together their Eagle Scout Project Proposals for the trails as well. These kids are just amazing.” The younger scouts are doing trash pickup one day every other month.

High school students are able to complete their required school community service hours there as well. The trails council also partners with Cal Fire. More volunteers are always needed and donations are very much appreciated.

Santa Margarita River Trail maintenance completed

(Winter 2014)

Trail maintenance along the Santa Margarita River was completed in November with the help of several volunteers with the Trails Council, Fallbrook Village Rotary and workers from the Rainbow Conservation Fire Camp.

Led by Al and Donna Gebhart , the project included hauling a significant amount of trail material down the trail to help stabilize some trail sections, as well as trimming vegetation and moving sand and rocks to improve sections of the trail.

The Santa Margarita trail system is within property owned by the Fallbrook Public Utility District that was originally acquired to be the site of a raw water storage reservoir with the construction of a dam on the river. Due to environmental concerns, this project is being modified to develop a joint project with Camp Pendleton to store water in wet years in water aquifers below ground on the military base instead of building a dam, and to build facilities to deliver water back to Fallbrook as part of the Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use Project which is currently being developed.

The Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use Project will provide a mechanism to permanently preserve the property and protect the passive recreational uses in perpetuity. The property is currently managed by the Trails Council, which agreed to manage the trail system and public access on behalf of FPUD.

Without our volunteer efforts, this trail system would not be able to be open to the public. Volunteers who helped with the recent trail efforts were Al Gebhart, Steve Hartshorn, Bert Hayden, Vince Ross, Scott Harry, Bob Butler, Eric Ramos and Jack Bebee.

Visit our Volunteer page to let us know you’d like to help!

Ribbon-cutting denotes opening of Santa
Margarita County Preserve

(October 11, 2007 Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News)

On October 3, the formal cutting of a red ribbon was the official signal by the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation that the Santa Margarita County Preserve is now officially open.

Red Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Red Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Members of the public were able to hike a two-and-a-half-mile trail that offers scenic views of the Santa Margarita River. By following the trail, hikers can connect to existing paths on Fallbrook Public Utility District land.

In addition, the County Parks and the Recreation Department and the Trails Council opened the first official equestrian staging area in Fallbrook which is considered one of the nicest and most used in the county of San Diego.

“The preserve opening marks another great achievement toward the future North County Multiple Species Conservation Program,” said County Supervisor Bill Horn, who represents District 5, which includes Fallbrook. “Our strong partnerships and strategic planning have provided an opportunity for the public to enjoy our region’s natural resources, while continuing our efforts to preserve them.”

The park is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. until 30 minutes before sunset. The preserve is closed during heavy rain to protect the public and natural resources. Fishing in the river is not permitted.

The county acquired the 173-acre preserve in 1992 to add to the future North County Multiple Species Concervation Program.

Private trail opens Reserve

(November 22, 2001 Fallbrook/Bonsall Village News)

Ribbon CuttingAl and Donna Gebhart cut the ribbon to the First Private Trail from a Fallbrook neighborhood to the beautiful picturesque Santa Margarita Reserve, which is owned by the Fallbrook Public Utility District, and the trails are maintained by the Fallbrook Trails Council.

This private trail is maintained by approximately 18 families which participate in the Trail Maintenance Agreement.  Each homeowner has agreed to pay $200 per year for the construction and maintenance for the first five years, and $100 per year thereafter.

This agreement was reached with Michael Crews and Mick Wunderlin, the developer and engineer who developed the 5-parcel development and the Santa Margarita Drive neighborhood.  The Gebharts and the other founders began the Fallbrook Trails Council approximately 2 1/2 years ago and chair that organization which has grown to approximately 100 people.  It is active in preserving Fallbrook’s rural atmosphere, and promoting trails and pathways throughout Fallbrook.  Their projects have included the Annual Santa Margarita River Day, with guided hikes and rides through the reserve as a fundraiser for maintenance of the trails.

Equestrian Journal

November 2001

This has been an exciting quarter for the Fallbrook Trails Council. In July, Donna Gebhart and Carolyn Major appeared before the Board of Supervisors along with many other trails representatives from around the County, to support the Regional and Community Trails Master Plan program as it pertains to the General Plan 2020. The direction of the Trails Master Plan is toward keeping the Community Trails Plan outside of the 2020 plan so that communities can make changes, additions, and deletions as necessary without going through extreme measures such as attempting to amend the County 2020 Plan.

The Regional Trails Plan (which includes the California Riding and Hiking Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the San Dieguito River Park Coast to Crest Trail, etc.) would remain within the 2020 General Plan. The Community Trail Master Plan would be developed using a baseline level of service related to population as a guide for meeting community needs. (i.e. .84 miles of trail for each 1000 people in a community). Trails, pathways, and other non-motorized paths within each community would attempt to connect parks, public open spaces, other trail systems, points of interest and/or sites with educational or historical significance.

The Fallbrook Community Planning Group now recognizes the importance of trails, and has begun requesting pathways from developers up front. In addition, the County and the Fallbrook Community Planning Group have put together two community workshops held recently in Fallbrook, and these workshops have focused on how the Fallbrook Community Plan fits within the 2020 General Plan. There will be a third workshop held here by the County in the near future. It is important that there be enough people attending who are advocates for maintaining the rural atmosphere which includes having trails and pathways connecting to parks and open spaces for our Community to enjoy.

Community support of the Fallbrook Trails Council insures all those living in Fallbrook a quality of life that everyone can enjoy.