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Do you think that building trails at calavera is a crime?

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Fight The Good Fight!

Guys -

Thanks for the private PM, and the public passionate post here, and here is a public answer, apologies in advance for the length.

If you are the same guys I talked to in person on the mountain Friday night, (as I suspect you are as you've repeated some of my points about why being outdoors getting exercise keeps kids out of drugs and gangs), then for the benefit of the forum, here is what I said then.

Trail building in itself is not a crime.
Building illegal trails on private property without permission is a crime,
its vandalism.

If you are destroying protected habitat on a nature preserve (MT Calavera is, and will be further protected as an ecological reserve by CA DFG) its a violation of laws that under the ESA would land a developer in court, with really big fines and very expensive work to fix it, including 2 to 3x the amount of acreage you "took", to make up for it.

Building an illegal trail, just like bulldozing a road without permission, is "taking" habitat. Thats a really big no-no in the conservation rules world.

Google areound if you dont believe me, or look for the post at Socaltrailriders for the poor guy thats dealing with code enforcment in SD for failing to get a grading permit to build jumps, where he thought he had permission but failed to follow the rules on how. He has only begun to fix it, and he is thousands in the hole already.

You and your moms and dads do NOT want to be in court paying $$$$100 thousands in restitution to fix an illegal trail. This one doesnt rise to that, imho, as a practical matter, and I'm personally willing to go back out and help you make this right.

If you fess up and show up to do the dirt work I would be surprised if we couldnt talk the current land manager into letting you fix it, if you agree to stop right now, and repair it before it gets any worse. This is remarkably less damaging than historic 4wd scars elsewhere, and could be considered an honest mistake, in my humble opinion as long as others dont ride further. So, to CYA, put out the word and get ready to make it right. .

I'd even aggree with "innocent" if you didnt know better.
But Now You Do.

BTW, so you know where I am coming from, I personally am very sympathetic to your wants and needs. I agree, there should be trail access in open spaces, for secondary recreation where that is consistent with the primary purpose of habitat preservation that these lands were set aside for in the first place.

Having a trail in the habitat allows people, who are part of the ecology, to enjoy it. More important, it allows land managers to educate those users, and the complexities of the rules and reasons why are very wide and deep, so its a step-by-step process, but once 95% of the people who lover the outdoors understand the beginning, they get on board, so begin your journey right now.

I should also admit am biased - I am a hiker and backpacker and nature lover, since the Boy Scouts 40 years ago, and a Sierra Club member from the 70s. My 10 year old son is a beggining MTBer, and My 8 year old daughter is horse crazy, and I'd love for her to ride near home, in Calavera, if possible. And my wife runs the dog out here just about daily.
I own a home on the edge of the open space and after nearly being run over by a drunken A$$... in a 4wd while pushing my babies in a stroller 8 years ago, and another F#$%WAD on a dirtbike threaten to run over my dog, and seeing gang-bangers deal drugs and young mexican prostitues in the ag land, I decided to do something about it.

I've put in probably 2500+ unpaid volunteer hours picking up trash, clearing invasives, leading school groups, community service teeenagers, corporate groups, and finding grants. So, I am invested in this place, and thanks to a whole lot more people who have done as much or more, including the City, the State and private landowners, its a night and day different place than 10 years ago, and theres more to be done to preserve this hidden jewel for you, and all our grandkids someday..

Bottomline, I am a multi-user and I want it all, too.
So, what do we do, now, you ask?

Laws and regulations are made by men, and they are changed by men.
Get involved in the process, focus your energy and passion as a group under So Cals most effective MTB group, SDMBA. Contact Erik Trogen at his contact info at and you will VERY EXCITED about whats coming soon. He is the N County liaison, talking to cities and agencies, a former pro racer, middle school principal, and now part owner of Turner. He is your focal point.

Trust me, you gotta be patient, and you gotta work the system.
Being a rebel may seem romantic and ego-satifying but only hurts the cause tho, and illegal trail building, while satisfying a short term need will do only one thing - and I guarantee faster than you can imagine - it will result in MTB use being taken away for good, for all of us.

Is that how the Calavera Freeriders want to be remembered?

I dont think so, if you were the fine young men I met tonite- I see you as the future guardians and stewards of this land, and best possible representatives of the future of the sport, if you can harness your passion and work ethic for doing good.

Builders- Talk to Rich Julien the wizard of RLC, who has helped CNLM and SDMBA transform that place into a showcase and proof statement for how sustainable trails are the answer and how SDMBA can be the biological land managers best friend.

CNLM is the best practices standard the go-to expert resource that all the conservation biologists and wildlife agencies turn to for advice, and Markus Spiegelberg is the guy who first "got it" so a shout out of infinite thanks to him too.

If we all (We being multi-users- conservationists, hikers, dog-walkers, mtbers, and even equestrians, can do more for them and other land managers, we have proven the case that SDMBA has proven elsewhere on National Park, SD County, SD City and many other places over and over works - .

Multi-use means more win-wins.

Step up the plate, gents, and prove me right and do the MTB community proud.

Skeej out.

Contact numbers - calavera area

Riders - thanks for the request - here is a good start, below.

First, to report crime or any accident- you should first dial 911, as you will usually be forwarded straight to Carlsbad Dispatch, which will get the Police Dept and/or Fire paramedics out fast. 911 calls geolocate your position too.

On some parts of the area you may roll into CA Hwy Patrol, which as you may know can involve a wait- if you need help and cant get thru, or for non-emergency calls, like to report off-roaders, gang-taggers, vandalism, or other crime of any sort- program this into your cell- 760-931-2197. Make sure you ask the dispatcher for an "incident number" that you can refer back to later for an update on what happened. CPD is working hard on improving open space and trails enforcement, and they do have off-road dirt bike patrol out there on weekends. All good guys, and if you want to know more- call CPL Kevin Lehan at Community Policing.

FYI - no promises, but there is a chance SDMBA will help land managers and users be more safe and well educated in places like this and Los Pen, so if you might like to help ride, get trained in CPR and wilderness first aid and get IMBA certified for their National Mountain Bike Patrol program contact "Gyan" at SDMBAs website - [email protected]

To report wildlife violations - poaching, pollution, waste dumping in the habitat call CALTIP - this allows anonymous tips and for big violations you may get up to $1000 reward. Visit the website for more. This info is relayed to local wardens, and if you provide a call back number, they will give you one for the report, that you can follow up on.

Any citizen can contact ANY public agency rep, and my only suggestion is you be patient, professional, proactive, persistent and polite, if you want to be most effective.

Here are some for the Calavera area:

City of Carlsbad Municipal Water Distric
t - current land manager for the dam, lake and all land north of a line drawn roughly along the dam, straight to the east on the northern shoulder of the mountain, to Oceanside. You can see the border clearly east of the mountain as the dirt road on the edge of the coastal sage scrub and grasslands divider there. Mark Stone is the Water Dept superintendent. Dont call him first - call Joe Adams to report problems - Joe is the supervisor for the area so call Joe first to report any problems with water lines, the dam, questions on the land, big piles of trash dumped, etc, by calling City of Carlsbad Public Works main line- (760) 438-2722, who will connect you up. On the weekends call problems into Carlsbad Police Dept dispatch 931-2197.

California Department of Fish and Game - manages the Carlsbad Highlands Ecological Reserve, the backward L shaped land east and south of Mt Calavera, thats roughly between the homes in Carlsbad on the west and home in Oceanside/Vista on the right, if you were looking at an aerial on Google Maps, for example. Warren Wong is a great guy, and new manager of that and several other eco reserves in N County. He is very busy, like all DFG folks, who in my humble opinion have been underfunded and over worked for years, but thats just me being sympathetic to him doing a hard job. 858-467-4249.

Right now, the 110 acres in the middle, surrounding Mt Calavera is the old Calavera Nature Preserve, the first mitigation parcel set forth in this area for land preservation, thanks to the wisdom and foresight of city planners before the MSCP was finalized in SD.
This land was (and technically still is) under the control of The Environmental Trust, a conservation land manager that sadly ran out of money. This property along with many others, is being transferred to other entities for open space preservation in perpetuity, so no fear, there will be no development here.

If all goes well, I understand CA DFG will run this by 1Q09, incorporating it into the CHER land just to the south.

City of Carlsbad Recreation Department is in charge of the trails program throughout the City. The trails are part of the land, but its important to understand that the trail program DOES NOT make public policy or decisions on the various pieces of land around town - those belong to the land owners, all of whom have various regulations and habitat plans and use guidelines to follow. Liz Ketabian is another amazing resource who has done so much for multi-use - she is holding outreach meetings, has monthly trail events, quarterly volunteer updates, etc etc - and many of the local MTBers know her well already from doing trail work and events in this area- 492-5300.

City of Carlsbad Planning Department is in charge of the Habitat Steward - this position is designed to do several key jobs, and Roseanne Humphrey is doing outreach and can help anyone understand the complex rules and guidelines over open space and trails. Reach her at Planning- (which is a subset of the Community Development Division) at (760) 602-4600. She works for Mike Grim, who is the senior environmental planner there.

Here is the big deal that represents the opportunity for trails, in general, building on long success and collaboration and coalition building in SD County, and finally - to get in the game in a really focused and effective way in Carlsbad. I see on various chat rooms and forums a lot of *****ing and moaning about decisions being made, evilll developers this and we arent listened to that, but here is the deal - trails and planning for recreational use is in its infancy, in relative terms, and DH and BMX even newer, so if you want to make a difference - its not too late, and you can jump right in.

Best news of all is you arent starting at ground zeor, you are simply adding your energy, youthful enthusiasm, perfectly legitimate wants and needs as young citizens and taxpayers too, to the overall citizen wish list, and

for maximum Return on Investment, you'll be adding your voices, and talents to a lot of great work already by SDMBA, which is just kicking in now.

Whats hot and why you want to do it now and here, in Carlsbad, the best run city and best open space resource manager in North County (and thats not me saying it- its top people at DFG and USFWS who would say the same if they could, but cant to be politically correct):

the 50 year growth plan update and the just begun outreach the City is calling
Envision Carlsbad.
Click the link and read thru it, you will see that all citizens and especially positive, proactive, professional and persistent representatives of those groups will have a fair shake in the process- and its time to start now.

From 23 years in the Navy, and another 20 in big business, I can tell you that power comes from groups, and working together. You have a powerful ally, well-respected and already successful user group and advocacy organization with proven results and huge credibility with land managers in the San Diego Mountain Biking Assn. I am not even a member, so dont misunderstand my enthusiasm for "selling" them - I just know how much good they have done and how perceived, and if you want to take your energy and passion and focus it, you would be wasting time doing anything but putting it to work for them and other MTBers.

Check out the website, sign up where you will get informed, and then call/email Erik Trogden at his contact numbers there. Trust me, Erik is THE perfect guy for this job, and he is your most enthusiastic and hard-working proponent of what all MTBers and the various subsets, XC, DH, FR, skillz, noobs and clydes like me all can do togethere to promote healthy recreation in this beautiful natural setting, while respecting and supporting the primary purpose of habitat preservation for sensitive and endangered species.

Please feel free to pass this along. I will layoff the long messages here and stop abusing this forum, as you now all have the right folks to contact.

Hope to see you on the trails, where you will recognize me as the fat 54 yr old clyde puffing along, and
with pick and shovel in hand, when the LEGAL dirt work starts.

Merry Christmas!

AKA Kevin Skjei

"Multi-use means more win-wins", and
SDMBA volunteers restore habitat and trails like no one can!

· Registered
292 Posts
Freeriding trailbuilding guys, I suggest you
a) lay low and don't build any more trails until you understand the situation better
b) don't admit or give your names out as having built any possibly illegal trails
c) start talking to folks at SDMBA to help build good legal trails and work for a BMX / jump area in north county

· Registered
292 Posts
I think you have your finger on the pulse of Calavera more than anyone else, including SDMBA and PreserveCalavera, as far as I can tell. I check different sites pretty regularly, but am not making meetings like I want to. So please post up any important meetings or trail work opportunities on the MTB forums as far in advance as you can. Hopefully the freerider guys will resurface to contribute legally so we can all enjoy good trails now and in the future. I think they honestly didn't understand it and thank you for taking the time to explain it.

Thanks, will do my best to post updates in Calavera.


Thanks, I will. I just found out SDMBA has a trail/erosion repair event here teed up for March - contact Erik Trogden at the SDMBA website for more info.


PS: my strong impression was the young men I met were good guys who were naturally disappointed the track and jump they built was illegal, unknown to them.

Stop illegal trail building in Calavera Open Space NOW!

Ladies and Gents,

I've heard a second hand account by reputable sources who contacted a person working on the illegal downhill trail on the south side of Mt Calavera.

Again, this illegal activity is noticed by many people, including the current conservation land owner - who has complained to the Carlsbad Police,
the DFG land manager who will be taking that land over soon, and the game warden who can enforce "habitat take" laws on behalf of the state.

Please put out the word that one knucklehead can make all MTBers as a group look bad.


· Lord of the Chainrings
2,915 Posts
...and I always thought "skateboarding" was a crime!

Dumb question here....

Ok, so we all know it's illegal to build trails out there.
Is it illegal to ride on them, even if you don't know they are illegal? :skep:

· Registered
253 Posts
Double Jeopardy

You really have a problem with that dilemma when the unsigned trail is better designed then the legal ones. The problem with many of our open spaces is that the trails that are there were not built by knowledgeable trail builders. They were either old motorcycle and orv trails or service roads.Or like MTRP an old army training facility. The illegals of Tunnels must have worked for IMBA, they made some great trails. The illegals of Carlsbad made most of the old flightline trails. Remember the trail that started across the street from the water dept building on the corner of El Camino? It resides under the same canopy of scrub oak as tunnels. Wonder if it has achieved the same level of protection?

But back to your dilemma. I vote that the powers that be get started real soon to define what are the best trails and begin to take control of the run away train and better yet begin building better trails and shut down the dogs they currently call trails.

As a volunteer who can help I stand at the ready along with a thousand other points of light.

· Lord of the Chainrings
2,915 Posts
taffy15 said:
You really have a problem with that dilemma when the unsigned trail is better designed then the legal ones. The problem with many of our open spaces is that the trails that are there were not built by knowledgeable trail builders. They were either old motorcycle and orv trails or service roads.Or like MTRP an old army training facility. The illegals of Tunnels must have worked for IMBA, they made some great trails. The illegals of Carlsbad made most of the old flightline trails. Remember the trail that started across the street from the water dept building on the corner of El Camino? It resides under the same canopy of scrub oak as tunnels. Wonder if it has achieved the same level of protection?

But back to your dilemma. I vote that the powers that be get started real soon to define what are the best trails and begin to take control of the run away train and better yet begin building better trails and shut down the dogs they currently call trails.

As a volunteer who can help I stand at the ready along with a thousand other points of light.
Points well taken! I'm with you on them!

Many of our current paved roads were a result of the old stagecoach, and horse-and-buggy routes. Not really the smartest and best routes but were attiquite for the time. ...and yes, the Flightline trails were results of "illegal alien" installed trails. Back in the 80's and early 90's there were many "encampments" out there.

Back to Calavera... Not really my favorite place to ride....A lot of real steep, "doggy" rutted fire roads to get you to the top. Ya, I guess you could call it "challenging", but I can't really bring my wife or grandchildren up there. The "widowmaker" trail is aptly named.

I don't condone rogue trail building, but to me it looks like the "builder" was attempting to carve a smarter and more "navigable" way to the top. And yes, I do understand the frustration in working with the "powers-to-be government" as; (unless you are a bank, contractor, or an American auto maker), they always deal with issues at a snails pace, or you get bumped off the agenda at board meetings.

Better Trails would be habitat enhancing...

Rich, Mudd,

I agree with you both. The trails in Calavera are obviously artifacts of old 4WD activity, and as such most are completely unsustainable, the Widowmaker being the worst of all (I've personally seen two bikers helo'd off that hill for breaking their necks there, one of them sadly was a paramedic himself, so I dont recommend anyone ride it).

The soon-to-be land manager from DFG, Warren Wong, has seen this in person, specifically how the one "legal" trail on the south side of MT Calavera (which was simply drawn in on the map in 2003 by one of the bird-biologists of the former land manager, TET, as a way of making it possible to have the largest contiguous piece of gnatcatcher habitat" - my recollection of his words)

which as a practical matter in the six years since being designated, been ignored by most hikers as its ugly and too steep, and has gullied out in places 15' deep, depositing tons of soil, as you can see by looking at the 3' concrete k-rail at the bottom, which is now only showing 6" or so where the soil has piled up over the years.

So, the key to fixing those bad trails is getting volunteers with sustainable erosion-proof trail building expertise involved. The first step is to "GET PERMISSION" of the land managers.

As a proof statement, we have the example of "The Spine" (AKA "Mordor") trail which is the bumpy rolly rocky trail that comes down from the west side to the s.e. corner of the CNP, which 9 years ago was a 40' wide by 1500' long sunbaked, 12' deep in places gullied out old 4WD scar (this was originally where the mine trucks drove down with the rocks from the quarry to the dams west side).

This trail, which as a volunteer coordinator and dirt-work volunteer for TET, is where the historic and close to sustainable "flow" actually goes, so to honor that I got permission to informally work on by managers of TET, while at same time they were patiently waiting to update the official trail map (see above on City delay...). ("HONOR THE FLOW")

The work was started by the git-r-done expertise of TET's on the ground conservationists, first to terraform it with a big front loader, and then hand shape it thereafter by volunteers, most prominently and impactfully, over the next 4 years, ("GET EXPERT HELP")

by mountain bikers, including SDMBAs Andy Darragh, Mtn Bike Warehouses' Rich Dynes and his former Nite Rider group, and other local and passionate riders, who worked in some cases side-by-side as great role models, with many many others, corporate groups like Callaway Golf, Timberland, and GIA, (CREATE COALITIONS)

to teach teens from the Carlsbad Police Department's Juvenile Justice Department, who in addition to doing much of the other gnarliest trash hauling out there for 1 1/2 years, hauled home-made erosion bales from the creekbed to the top, moved rock, shoveled topsoil, and learned how to give back. (GIVE CREDIT TO PARNTERS)

Later, following TETs example in other hand-revegetated plots nearby, we brought out school kids, and hand collected native seeds nearby in paper bags, and walked the trail to scatter seed, to grow in native plants, so that with repairs and grooming by many many other dedicated volunteers over the years, we have succeeded in gradually shaping that. and have turned it into an almost naturally revegetated singletrack.

Now, you can see by the increased popularity of Calavera and the traffic there that it needs a lot more work, including some minor re-routes, armoring and erosion fixes, for as anyone who works trails knows it is an evolving science-art form, and so as a great example of "adaptive management" (the buzzword in bioscience for try stuff out and see what works) the land managers are open to doing more there, and this is the perfect place for more MTB expertise and hard work.

Erik Trogden of SDMBA is preparing to do an erosion fix on this trail in March, if DFG gets the land by March, with the permission and guidance of Warren Wong, the DFG land manager.

If its not transferred by then, we have the permission of the existing land manager - TET, to do the same.

So, we have a test bed here, thats proving how adaptive trail managment can work for the biological health of the trail.

As to the illegal trail on the S.W. corner, I can only say, sadly, - that the illegal building spoiled what might have been a wonderful opportunity to build something really good there. That trail has some good points and some bad points - thats all I can say, as I defer to the SDMBA and IMBA experts.


Remember this buzzword - Secondary recreational trail access where possible and in support of the primary purpose, which is by permit, and FEDERAL rules, "habitat preservation". If you operate under that umbrella, thats the win-win that works for science based land managers who must abide by USFWS and DFG interpretations of the ESA and HMPs. (PS: If you dont know the language, you cant understand, and as the guru Stephen Covey points out - Rule #1 for anyone working with anyone else is
"Seek First to Understand". Go here to learn more).

So, we have a long history to build on, a great framework of collaboration in Carlsbad and with CNLM, a historic opportunity to make it happen, but we just CANT allow a well-meaning by ultimately self-centered ignorant knucklehead or two to blow it up for all of us, and delay for maybe years, all the hard work done here, in LCPC and RLC, to make a difference.

That means WE MTBers need to police our own, in Calavera, until we can help the new land managers see the power of sustainable trail building. We are VERY CLOSE - we just have to be a little more patient and follow SDMBAs lead.

Skeej, out.

correction - illegal trails are on s.EAST corner of Mt Calavera, and north side

correction - S.E corner trail is an incomplete and already eroding trail, thats been apparently worked on for six months. One person has been found in work, and warned. I think its fair to say the warden and CPD are well aware, and anyone caught working or riding there is at risk.

The builders of the north side trail have been advised, and it appears have agreed to stop work, thank you young men for your patience and maturity, and agreeing to work with SDMBA in RLC instead, to learn process and techniques, and give focus and leverage to a group already well known and trusted to do things right.

· Lord of the Chainrings
2,915 Posts
I'm all for the land manager supervised: "trail mitigation programs".

Ones that involve closing down permanently, the existing "unsustainable rutted and impassible" 4x4 routes, by planting native plant species there, and building quality "IMBA guideline approved" singletrack in it's place elsewhere on the property.

As we have shown here in San Diego County; (particularly at La Costa), the MTB volunteer network exists for trail work. Numbers really speak. Get involved!
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