November 1st, 2014


September 28th, 2014

Ernest R. Smith
Cuyamaca Equestrian Association
PO Box 79
Descanso, CA 91916

Regarding the document titled General Plan, the Cuyamaca Equestrian Association(CEA) totally and completely opposes the more restrictive designations of areas currently used for recreation within Cuyamaca Rancho State Park(CRSP). The park and it’s sensitive areas are already protected by the California Environmental Qualities Act(CEQA). These expanded/new historical, cultural and biological preserve designations will prevent/restrict improvements to Los Vaqueros Group Equestrian camp and may be used against equestrians in the future by new administrators who may interpret the regulations more strictly, as they were in the beginning of this process where the guidelines initially excluded equestrians from the natural preserves. Los Vaqueros is an island within these newly designated preserves, it is feared by many equestrians that California State Parks is slowly and methodically pushing us out of the park, either by neglect, policy or pricing. Sufficient protections are already in place and a balance use plan would be best for all interests and users as State Parks is charged with accomplishing.

None of the equestrian staging areas within CRSP have water, hitching posts, corrals, picnic tables, trash receptacles or permanent toilet facilities. We lost all that when Los Caballos was taken from us after the 2003 Cedar Fire. These have not been replaced. We had those things at Los Caballos. At the tiny Merigan trail head parking area, lacking all of these features, the park collects their $8 fee.

In the General Plan all we see is vague wording about improvements and working with equestrian user groups. In the past 10 years that CEA has worked with CRSP we have seen many plans and little action that required funding or the one word that is missing in California State Park’s vocabulary, mitigation. Mitigation being balancing cultural sensitivities, ecological needs with recreational requirements. Mitigation at Los Caballos could have included capping sensitive sites, fencing and education. None of that was considered. Mitigation is missing in the General Plan. Not one single place in the entire document is mitigation mentioned and yet it is one of the most important aspects of managing this jewel of a park. Mitigation could have saved Los Caballos, in fact CEA and CRSP were working on a mitigation strategy when the legal process overtook our effort. Mitigation can give us a Los Caballos replacement in the north end of the park. Mitigation needs to be in the General Plan.

Ernest R. Smith
Cuyamaca Equestrian Association

August 2nd letter to Director Mangat

September 25th, 2014

August 2, 2014

Dear Director Linda Mangat,

We are writing as concerned citizens, volunteers and park users regarding a situation in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

There has been a recent change in the administration of the horse camps in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park that we feel is unsafe, placing both the public and state at risk. It has come to our attention that the park has opened the horse campgrounds to non-equestrian campers.

We have been involved with Cuyamaca Rancho State Park for a range of 44-65 years, both as park users enjoying the beauty of the park and as volunteers in the park. We are educated in and support park policies and understand how difficult managing public lands can be with so many different types of recreation and the need to generate revenue. But, in this area, we respectfully disagree with the current park management. Historically, there has not been the mixing of equestrian and non-equestrian campers within campgrounds for a number of reasons. Horses attract flies, the odor of manure, etc. that some campers may find offensive. In the interface between equestrians and non-equestrians there are a number of safety factors in camping with others that may not know and understand equine behavior. For example, children raised around horses are educated not to go into corrals, feed horses by hand, or pet them without permission and/or supervision. People not familiar with equine behavior may think is alright to feed horses carrots, pet them and in some cases go into corrals, or run up to or ride bicycles or tricycles up to or close to mounted horses. They may get stepped on, bit or even kicked if they decide to approach the horse without the permission and/or under the guidance of the horse owner, or spook the horse, thereby potentially injuring the rider. Dogs unaccustomed to horses create another safety issue. Putting non horse people in a horse camp creates a dangerous condition thereby placing both the horse owner and the state at risk for a law suit.

When we met recently with District Superintendent Dan Falat and Park Superintendent Kevin Best to discuss the situation, we were told that there was no policy to prevent non-equestrians from camping in the campground, despite ReserveAmerica’s instructions from State Parks that horse campers must have horses with them. While Park management decided to open the spaces after 5:00 p.m. to non-equestrians as is done for ADA campsites, they will not direct people to open campsites in the non-equestrian campground first. If this is true then the same should hold for the equestrian camper who now may not have a place to camp and may need to go the traditional campground, or may simply wish to camp wherever they like, as seems is the case when non horse campers have recently booked a site in the Green Valley Horse Camp. Due to these concerns the horse camp volunteer host may not stay.

Park administration is also allowing any group to compete with horse groups to reserve Los Vaqueros Group Horse Camp which is only open seasonally 14 weeks a year. Additional revenue would be possible if the costs to reserve Los Vaqueros were lowered for midweek reservations as is established in other State Park campgrounds elsewhere in California.

We respectfully request a review of the Department’s Campground policy as it pertains to equestrian vs. traditional camping, and we strongly urge that horse camps be restricted to campers accompanied by horses. We look forward to your response.


Peggy and Bernie Martin
representing a passionate group of equestrian park users (see attached) 619-818-9686 11190 Hwy 79, Descanso, CA 91916

Each of the folks listed here are members of various horse groups, including Cuyamaca Equestrian Association, Backcountry Horsemen of California, Saddle SoreOrity, Ramona Trails Association, Pine Valley Mountain Riders, Los Senderos de San Diego, Lakeside Frontier Riders, Bonita Valley Horsemen and Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association.

Several are also active volunteers in the Mounted Assistance Unit and Trails Maintenance Unit in Cuyamaca. Others have been representatives appointed to the Equestrian Stakeholders following the Cedar Fire and more recently during the General Plan Update.

We join with Peggy and Bernie Martin and support the letter above:

Ernie Smith
Terry and Marty Jorgensen
Patty Heyden
Bill Butters
Mark Kukuchek
Julie Murphy
Kandhy Franklin

Aug 11 response from Dan Falat District Superintendent

September 17th, 2014


I apologize for the delayed response, I was out of the office last week.

I am not familiar with the specific incident that you are referring to and am not sure what information was checked. I would be happy to clarify or look into that specific incident if you would like to provide me with some additional specifics.

Staff has been directed to handle the Green Valley Horse Camp in the same manner that we discussed at our meeting.

As has been the case in the past the preferred use for the Green Valley Horse Camp is for campers with horses, but it is not an exclusive use.


At this point we are maintaining the reservation language on Reserve America as it has been since prior to my arrival in the District and keeping the alerts that horses are required to make a reservation. There may be minor modifications to the language, as necessary in the future, but as of today it has remained unchanged. As we talked about in our meeting this is not a 100% guarantee, but it does give campers with horses a more preferred reservation status. Upon arrival all reservation will be honored.

Campers with horses who do not have reservations will be allowed to purchase an available campsite for the night in the Green Valley Horse Camp at any time if the site is not reserved and available. Campers without horses who wish to camp in an available campsite within that loop will be able to do so after 1700 hours.

As with all campsite this will be done on a first come-first serve basis for one night at a time.

Exceptions can be made by the on-duty Ranger, Supervisor or the Superintendent for operational need, but the information outlined above will be the general operating procedure.

If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me or give me a call.


Dan Falat
District Superintendent
Colorado Desert District

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park - Preliminary General Plan

August 23rd, 2014

The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park - Preliminary General Plan and Draft EIR is now available for public review and comment. The 45-day public review period occurs from August 21, 2014 to October 6, 2014. All comments must be postmarked by standard mail or e-mailed by October 6, 2014. All comments received by the deadline will receive a written response published in the Final General Plan/EIR.

For complete information go to:

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park General Plan

The Tale of the Trail Machine

July 28th, 2012

CEA’s president Ernie Smith and treasurer Cindy McKievick met with CRSPIA board members and State Park representative Nedra Martinez during their July 2012 monthly meeting regarding the Sweco trail machine. Areas which were discussed included:
• Clarification on the purchase history of the Sweco trail machine
• It’s use at other State park location(s) other then Cuyamaca State Park
• It’s current lack of use within Cuyamaca State Park - SP employees and/or volunteers
• CRSPIA’s stand on large capital expenditures for State Park equipment.
After the Cedar fire of 2003, local and regional users of Cuyamaca State Park wanted to help restore public use trails as soon as possible, and to provide a means to maintain the use of those trails in the future. A private group of individuals spear headed by Bernie Martin and others raised over $50K to purchase a Sweco trail machine, essentially a custom mini-bulldozer designed for building trails. After the money was raised, CRSPIA initiated the purchase of a new Sweco and also obtained factory training for it’s volunteer operators in it’s safe usage. During this evolution, a State Park employee discovered an underused Sweco machine at another park. A negotiation occurred involving a swap that included CRSPIA purchasing another piece of equipment (not the original Sweco) for that other State park use, thus allowing Cuyamaca to “purchase” the used Sweco machine.

• To dispel a popular rumor, during the transfer of the Sweco machine to Cuyamaca State Park, the machine never left possession of the state.
• The trail machine was safely operated by trained volunteers to reroute the California Riding and Hiking, parts of the East Side trail and the initial work on the Cold Spring reroute with a 100% safety record.

CRSPIA has no control over the trail machine nor it’s use or lack there of. During the board meeting, it was noted that a donor was willing to donate a truck for volunteer use, CRSPIA declined the offer for the same reasons regarding the trail machine. Once in State park hands, the truck is now subject to the whims of the greater California State Park system.

No anger should be directed toward CRSPIA, they were as naive as the rest of us that donated money for this machine. California State Parks dictates how, when and with what type of equipment is to be used and by whom. CEA board members will continue to try to engage California State Park representatives in a dialog to facilitate the use of the trail machine to its full potential and to preserve the trails for all to use, safely.

Cuyamaca Equestrian Association’s October 2011 update

October 21st, 2011

Cuyamaca Equestrian Association’s October 2011 update:
General meeting was held on October 6th 2011
Agenda Highlights:

California State AB 42 was signed into law on October 4ht 2011. This new law sponsored by California State Parks Foundation and Assembly member Jared Huffman (D-Marin) is to allow nonprofit organizations to help take a direct role in helping prevent park closures. The bill allows Department of Parks and Recreations to enter into operating agreements for the improvement, restoration, care, maintenance, administration, or operation of a unit or units of the State park system with qualified nonprofit organizations. The bill provides another tool to maintain the legacy of our State park system and keep our parks open for all Californians. The passage of AB 42 will now allow for creative solutions to the financial challenges currently facing state parks.

GreenValley Falls Equestrian area: State Park Supervisor Nedra Martinez reported as of October 2nd 2011 Green Valley Falls, all parts of it - camping and day use area, have been closed by State Park. Also included in this closing is Granite Springs Campground. These locations will stay closed until (tentative) July 1st 2012. There is one exception and that is park employee John Sproule will stay on until the end of November 2011 when Los Vaqueros horse camping facility will close. All seasonal employees are being laid off as of Sunday, October 2 2011. Included in her report is that Palomar Family Campground and the Group Camp will close on the July 2 2011. It will stay closed as Palomar is slated for full closure as of July 1, 2012. Anyone who had reservations, for either of these facilities, will be given a refund. Note that each cancelled reservation costs the state $15.50.

CEA response to these closures: A letter written request was sent out by our president, Ernie Smith to other equestrian organization to write to various governmental agencies regarding the closing and financial issues currently occurring with the State parks, specifically Cuyamaca. CEA’s board also is in contact with Cuyamaca representatives to try and address these issues. A copy of the letter is posted below -

Dear Fellow Equestrians,

I have held off from forwarding this email as things have been in flux
to say the least. As most of you already know Green Valley Falls is
closing October 2nd 2001, earlier than planned. This is a huge
disappointment for all equestrians. For a state park that is not
closing, Cuyamaca is being closed for equestrian camping half of the
year, this again is discouraging. November is a soft month for this campground, last year it brought in 420 campers,76 horse campers, 199 paid day use visitors between Nov 1st and November 30th at Green Valley Falls Campground. Do the math, it is more than enough to cover the $4k for the three seasonal employees for one month, estimated
profit for this soft month could be anywhere from $15K to 25K. Cuyamaca
Rancho State Park is now wanting to close this campground until July,
losing two highly profitable months out of the early summer season, how
much money is state parks going to lose? Are the rest of our “open” parks being run this way? I was born and raised in California, camped in inexpensive nearby state parks as a child. This was what my single income, stay at home mom family could afford. This affordable family recreation activity has been taken away from the citizens of
California. Standby for further details and plan of action as this is
not acceptable to the citizens of California.

CEA is currently investigating the State parks budget for this area and questioning how these issues can be better financially resolved.
1). With the lack of loss of low cost seasonal employees, CRSP is now manning the kiosks with park rangers. The cost of a seasonal employee is less than $1500 per month. Because the state halted funding of seasonal employees, Green Valley campground is now closed, this campground generated approximately $30K during the month of November last year.
2). Request State park budget from Sacramento via the FOI act. Use this information and camping attendance numbers to support the opening of Green valley sooner then July 2012.
3). Current financial information generated:
Total $37M dollars being cut from the park budget
$22M in two stages, $11 million x 2
$5M OHV Cut
$5M OHV Grants
$5M lost revenue from closed parks
2006-2007 State parks were funded at $175 million
2012-2013 they will be funded at $99 million
4). Organize communication with CRSPIA on alternative ideas for park staffing
5). Media awareness of these issues

Update Los Caballos:
Later this month (October 2011) California State Parks, using “grant” funding, will be restoring Los Caballos to it’s native state. The long closed Los Caballos trail has been rerouted and reopened during this process. Although I welcome the reopening of this important connector trail, I will miss my old friend as I know many of my fellow equestrians will. The “clean up” at Los cab is on schedule. should be starting this month (October). Corral parts are going to be salvaged.

Trail Dedication: CEA reported on the death of one of San Diego’s local legends, Jerry Schad, writer of San Diego A Foot an A field. Currently Cuyamaca state park and CRSPIA are discussing a proposal to rename Blue Ribbon trail in his honor, other local agencies are also looking to rename other familiar hiking trails in his honor. A tribute to his contributions to all of those who have enjoyed and used his wealth of hiking trails in and around San Diego.

Mott Award : CEA’s president Ernie Smith and his wife Robin Smith, along with Cuyamaca park staff, were awarded the Mott Award for innovation in California State Parks,. The ceremony was held up in Riverside, and this award was in recognition to CEA and all equestrian groups, organizations how for the past 7 year contributed to the effort to get equestrian camping back in Cuyamaca park. Without CEA’s continuous efforts of keeping the pressure on CSP, there would be no campground. The lawsuit, our pressure on Sacramento, pressure on SHIPO regarding Ah Ha Cuyamaca, all contributed to the “willingness” of CSP to do Green Valley Falls. CEA is thankful for all how contributed to this victory.

Update for November 2010 Board Elections

November 15th, 2010

Every interested equestrian is welcome to attend CEA General Meetings.

Upcoming CEA meetings: April 7, 2011 and October 6, 2011 at Coco’s restaurant,1324 E. Main Street, El Cajon (near Main and 2nd/Jamacha). The meetings start at 7 p.m. Come at 6:30 and have dinner beforehand and visit.

Questions or directions: Linda Eskin 619 368-4333 (cell) or .

CEA Board elections:
· Linda Eskin
· Nola Michel
· Jo Frankland
· Charlene Phelps

join with continuing members of the CEA Board, Ernie Smith, Bernie Martin and Cindy McKievick (board members serve for 2 year terms). In January the board will select board positions.

Park News:

· Green Valley Horse Camp is open for reservations through November. 800-444-7275. Check out photos and descriptions of each site at CEA is working with the park to increase and improve trail access from the camp and plans to develop a map showing trail connections from the camp. CEA has purchased and donated two 100-gallon stock tanks with floats, 2 wheelbarrows, and ramps for the manure trailer. Thanks to all who have contributed to the Green Valley Horse Camp Fund.

· Hual Cu Cuish Equestrian Staging Area (located just off Milk Ranch Rd, by Lake Cuyamaca): The turnaround area is now flat and inviting for larger vehicles. Enjoy riding in the north end of the park.

· Adopt a work party – Do you enjoy the trails of Cuyamaca? They desperately need your help. Take one day out of 365 to give to the park. Encourage your club membership to volunteer for a
workparty date. Information on the CEA website Trail Maintenance Unit really could use some help! This time of year is perfect for working on the trails.

· Trail conditions – Great trail riding conditions except for falling trees during windy weather. Be prepared to backtrack if you can’t pass a fallen tree. Reminder to use fire roads after rains to give the trails a chance to firm up so as to prevent trail damage. Enjoy your park!

How to Support CEA · Join CEA, as an individual or club by going to “Join CEA” at

· Come to our meetings
· Donate tax deductible funds to further CEA’s work in the park.
Mail checks to: CEA, PO Box 79, Descanso, CA 91916.

Your donations are much appreciated in the support of equestrian interests in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. A separate Green Valley Horse Camp Fund has been established to support needs in the equestrian campground.

Green Valley Falls Equestrian Campground

September 10th, 2010

CEA has prepared a PowerPoint presentation and in pdf format describing the new equestrian campground located at Green Valley Falls. In this document we have included maps, pictures of each site and recommended rig size.

Green Valley Falls Equestrian Campground Map

September 6th, 2010

Green Valley Falls Equestrian Campground Map