Watch a 2007 Video about the origins of San Diego Canyonlands (28 minutes).
In the summer of 1998 communities surrounding San Diego neighborhood canyons were informed about plans to build permanent sewer line maintenance roads in the floors of the canyons. The residents surrounding North Park’s Switzer Canyon came to the Sierra Club saying, “Our canyons are precious to us. They provide an escape to nature from an otherwise completely paved and urbanized environment. We don’t want to see access roads paved through our neighborhood wild-lands.”
In response, on a rainy Saturday morning in October 1998, the Sierra Club conducted a free, informative, guided tour of Switzer Canyon for about 60 residents- organizing a new canyon ‘Friends Group’ and launching the San Diego Canyons Campaign. The Sierra Club, recognizing that San Diegans love their neighborhood canyons, continued to develop Friends Groups for dozens of canyons throughout the city and county.
With the championship of City Council representative Christine Kehoe (now State Senator) and the pressure of several organized canyon groups united as a city-wide Canyons Coalition, the City Council passed a temporary moratorium on road building in canyons. They established a Task Force to research alternatives to the obtrusive access roads and develop policies for accessing the sewer system while minimizing impacts to canyon habitats. In January 2002, the City Council adopted the recommendations of the Task Force limiting the access to 8-foot wide, unpaved and vegetated roads.
Steady grant funding from The San Diego Foundation, combined with other local grant makers enabled the campaign to grow from one part-time grassroots organizer to three full-time employees. Dozens of new canyon groups are now actively cleaning and restoring canyon habitats, and providing hands-on environmental education opportunities to local schools and youth groups.
In February 2008, San Diego Canyonlands was incorporated as a tax-deductible nonprofit corporation.
San Diego Canyonlands Inc. (SDCL) is a new organization being formed by experienced individuals that served for years in leadership capacities on Sierra Club’s San Diego Canyons Campaign. Recognizing that San Diegans love their neighborhood canyons, the Sierra Club launched the Canyons Campaign in 1999, developing over 40 “Friends Groups” throughout San Diego County to steward the neighborhood canyons. The establishment of the new organization is essential for its continued growth because it will now have a focused governing board and new funding sources, (such as state and federal grants), which were not feasible as a part of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club, San Diego Chapter, supports the formation of the new organization.
The purpose of SDCL will be to continue to develop Friends groups and local leadership that will provide sustainable stewardship of the unique canyon/creek habitats that wind throughout most neighborhoods in San Diego.
Results of projects led or strongly influenced by San Diego Canyonlands/ Canyons Campaign
- 2009 (June) San Diego Canyonlands received funding to develop a pilot “Canyon Enhancement Plan” to implement the “Next Steps” of the white paper “Canyonlands, The Creation of a San Diego Regional Canyonlands Park”.
- 2008 (July) San Diego Canyonlands, Inc. receives IRS 501 (c)(3) letter for tax-exempt status.
- 2007 Governor Schwarzenegger signs bill written by Senator Christine Kehoe dedicating 6,000 acres of canyon open space, saving the city $1 million in “Dedication” costs. The San Diego City Council ratifies this “Dedication” legislation. This was the culmination of the process started by a request from the Canyons Campaign and Civic Solutions to the City’s Natural Resource and Culture Committee, chaired by Donna Frye, to protect San Diego’s canyons.
- 2006 San Diego Civic Solutions Canyonlands Committee (including Sierra Club Canyons Campaign Coordinator Eric Bowlby) release the Canyonlands white paper to present strategies for Canyons preservation, enhanced access and promote the concept of a San Diego Regional Canyonlands Park.
- 2004 - 2005 City establishes Open Space Department and hires a Deputy Director, park planner, trail planner, and two additional rangers to work with Canyon Groups in the canyons.
- 2000 Sierra Club launches San Diego Canyons Campaign for development of Canyon “Friends Groups” in response to the Metropolitan Waste Water Department plans to build sewer-access roads through the floors of canyons all over the city. In 2002 City adopts the Canyon Access Task Force recommendations and establishes the Open Space/Canyons Advisory Board (OSCAC) as part of those recommendations.