Archive for September, 2014

Sunday, 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

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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