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--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors


Monday, February 25, 2008

Anza-Borrego Park Wildflower Season Will Soon be Here

Blooms are expected to begin at the end of February, and will likely peak in the second week of March.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP) is a vast state park stretching from the mountains in eastern San Diego and Riverside counties across the desert and into Imperial County. Containing over 600,000 acres, it is among the largest state parks in the United States. The ABDSP also holds the distinction of containing the largest area of State Wilderness in California, with over 400,000 acres of ABDSP falling under this designation.

Some Anza-Borrego park history:

In 1933 and 1936, U.S. Congress agreed to turn over 550,000 acres to the State of California for the Anza Borrego Park.

Some excerpts:

After the State Park Commission announced the general boundaries of Borrego Palms Desert State Park and organized an acquisition program, it proposed a bill calling for the transfer of government lands not used for public purposes to the state of California for park use. Representative Phil D. Swing introduced the bill to the United States Congress in February, 1933. Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur, a former state park commissioner, gave his full endorsement of the bill, stating that the "State of California has sensed its responsibility in preserving this unique area which cannot be duplicated elsewhere." The only stipulation placed upon transferring federal land was that the state provide satisfactory proof that the land selected contain characteristic desert growth and scenic or other natural features which would be desirable to preserve as a part of a park system. The Swing bill was amended before passage to provide for the reversion of federal lands to the United States if not used for park purposes within a five-year period. The bill passed on March 3, 1933, making 185,034.36 acres of unappropriated federal land available to the State of California. The land was located north of the old Julian-Kane Springs Road and below the Riverside County line, extending from the Salton Sea west to Montezuma Valley and the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. After the passage of the Swing bill, the park commission contracted L. Deming Tilton, landscape architect and planning expert for San Diego County, to make a study of the area and the park units in the acquisition program. His report excited even the most pessimistic observers. He believed the program followed by Fleming was too restricted. He called for boundaries to encompass at least 200,000 acres, a plan similar to that originally recommended by Fleming and Olmsted in 1928. He based his evaluation of the area on scenic value, not on land value, and insisted that it was necessary for the park to embrace practically all land of minimal agricultural or commercial value in order to prevent exploitation which could destroy the natural beauty of the area. His ultimate boundary lines would necessitate the procurement of private holdings. Tilton requested quick action in obtaining the land because delay had already foiled plans for an ideal park by allowing some development to occur in Borrego Valley in 1933….

...The Burnham bills, approved on June 29, 1936, made available an additional 365,389.54 acres of federal lands for park purposes. These bills carried the same stipulations as the Swing bill, but in addition, amended the Swing bill to provide for the exchange of federal lands for private lands in order to consolidate state park holdings and to secure strategic, privately owned areas within park boundaries. While Congress considered these bills, hopes mounted for a million-acre park. The El Centro Chamber of Commerce advertised the area as a park that would ultimately embrace nearly a million acres. Superintendent Fleming said it would be the largest park in the world. In collaboration with Fleming, P. T. Primm, associate landscape architect for the National Park Service, called for the inclusion of all lands in the Burnham bills in addition to all of the Salton Sea area and many acres of adjacent lands to round out the park boundaries. Both men saw the possibility of national park status: There are real possibilities here for developing a great National Park. Borrego Desert State Park, Cuyamaca State Park and San Jacinto State Park might all be tied together by further acquisitions of desert and forest lands to make a year round playground of this magnificent area. Over a million acres could well be included herein and portions of three counties would be required to properly complete the picture. …

... In January, 1940, at Supervisor Bellon's request, the San Diego Board of Supervisors retained Dr. Philip Munz, professor of botany at Pomona College and an authority on desert flora, to make a botanical survey of lands selected in the Vallecito and Carrizo units. The results of Munz’ survey were silenced by the Board of Supervisors. In his report, Munz averred that his most outstanding impression of the Mason-Vallecito-Carrizo area was that "botanically it is one of the richest desert valleys I have ever seen."


More recent history from our files:

6-30-87 latimes—Digiorgio corp. owns 6000 acre project in Borrego Springs.

1989-A-B Foundation brochure—Since 1967, the ABF has bought over 19,000 acres to add to the AB park. There are still 50,000 acres of inholdings within the park, excluding Borrego Springs.

4-1992 Conservation Call—Digiorgio and Borrego Springs biz interests in 1969 proposed paving Coyote Cyn road. Digiorgio built the Rams Hill country club. The ABF has turned over 27,000 acres to the AB park.

Winter 1992 Adventure 16 Footprints—AB park was created in 1933, at that time there were 67,000 acres of inholdings. ABF has bought over 17,000 acres.

4-17-1995 LAtimes—SP Railroad sold the 108 mile long San Diego and Imperial Valley RR to the MTA of San Diego in 1979. Fire destroyed 2 bridges in the desert in 1983, so the rail line is only open between San Diego and Tecate, Mexico.

9/17/1995 LAtimes—Rams Hill LLC auctions off 3000 acre country club, including 670 entitled lots and 1800 acres of raw land.

2/6/1996 Outlook-assemblyman Bill Morrow is ticketed for driving on the closed Coyote Cyn. Road, (closed portion is 3 mile stretch)

6/6/1996 outlook—Morrow pushes bill mandating the opening of the road. Spring 1997 ABF newsletter—by 1995 ABF had added 23,000 acres to the park, while there remains 26,000 acres of inholdings.

8-21-1997 latimes—Mexican government is going to auction a lease to operate the Tijuana to Tecate train tracks, a portion of the SD to El Centro line, the total is 131 miles, the Mexican portion is 44 miles. The USA portion is controlled by RailTex of Texas.

10-16-1997 Latimes—Grupo Murphy wins auction for Mexican govt. rail line. Fall 2002-Desert Report—the ABF has an option to buy 842 acres in Mason Valley that includes Oriflamme Canyon, 680 acres and Rodriquez canyon, 162 acres. Price is $1.2 million. Since 1967, the ABF has added over 29,000 acres to the park.

Summer 2003 ABF newsletter—ABF has bought over 26,000 acres with an additional 25 to 30,000 acres left to be saved. Includes map of 1998-2000 purchases, over 10,000 acres.

Fall 2003 Desert Report—ABF options the Vallecitos ranch, 3339 acres. ABF has added 28,000 acres to the park.

3-30-2004 latimes—RR about ready to reopen line through AB park.

Spring 2004-Desert Report—on Canebrake cattle grazing lease south of Agua Caliente Springs park.

4-9-2004 SD Tribune—ABF buys 3339 acre Vallecitos Ranch for $4 million.

Fall 2004 Desert Report—Bill Morrow had snuck Coyote Cyn. road study into state budget bill. Pete Wilson vetoed all but the road study in the bill.

2005 State parks booklet—ABF has added over 30,000 acres to the park.

2007-ABF website press kit—Total of 35,000 acres has been donated to the park. There are 32,000 acres left to save.

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