Agencies address safety of Sandia Creek River Trails – Illegal activity a concern

Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD) is working with North County Fire, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and the Fallbrook Land Conservancy’s Trails Council to improve public safety at the Sandia Creek River Trails, especially by the swimming hole.

The concentrated effort is meant to suppress illegal activity that happens in the preserve, including bonfires and barbecues, trespassing after hours, littering, and alcohol consumption.

FPUD public affairs specialist Noelle Denke stated that the illegal fires have been a growing concern for FPUD, which is the agency that owns the property Sandia Creek’s trails are located on.

“That’s especially true with the drought,” she said. “The trash has also gotten worse over time.”

FPUD has replaced signs at the entrance of hiking trails clearly stating ordinances regarding drinking, fires, and littering in the area. The Sheriff’s Crime Suppression Team has been frequenting the area, educating individuals who are found in the area about the plans to enforce the regulations more vigorously. Those who have been told repeatedly about regulations may have already received citations.

“People go to the preserve after hours and have barbecues and fire pits, even though they are in a high fire risk area,” said Sheriff’s deputy Tim Clark. “We don’t want a bad fire in the De Luz canyon.”

According to Patty Koch, fire prevention specialist and interim fire marshal for North County Fire, the agency responds frequently to calls regarding fires in the area.

“These rules have been here all along, but people do not follow them. I know [illegal bonfires] happen often enough that fire engines now carry a bucket on board so they can put out fires with water from the creek,” said Koch. “I just put out a fire [on July 18], which consisted of burning logs that had been left still smoldering. We don’t want children to accidentally walk over smoldering embers or coals.”

Koch said that the De Luz canyon is especially dry during the summer seasons, and even small fires can cause tremendous damage during fire season. Koch also stated that portable barbecue pits are not recommended in the area.

“Right now the fuel moisture is very dry, and what would normally not be problematic would cause damage,” said Koch. “Everyone should be more careful, especially since a fire in this wilderness would be pretty devastating in the summer, or during a Santa Ana wind. We would have a fire similar to the one we had a few months ago.”

When responding to fire calls, Koch stated that fire engines

have difficulty reaching the trails because of cars that are

parked partially on the roadways.

Denke stated the trail has gotten more popular, and individuals leaving their cars on the side of the road can cause a driving hazard unless they are pulled completely off the road. As a response to the traffic hazard, Sheriff’s deputies will be citing or towing vehicles that partially block roadways.

“The number of people parked on the side of the road gets bigger and bigger, and you can see how the area is being manipulated by the traffic,” said Denke. “We also believe that it is not just Fallbrook residents visiting the trail; people from Temecula area are also going down there. When (FPUD associate) David Horn and I went down there recently, we saw a few people on inner tubes on the creek. They asked us where we were from, which led me to believe that they were not from the area.”

With the influx of guests at the trails, the amount of trash and litter has significantly increased.

“The trash amount is ridiculous,” said Clark. “There are literally piles of trash after the weekend, to the point that it wouldn’t hurt to have a dumpster out there.”

Donna Gebhart, a representative of the Trails Council, who has volunteers clean alongside the road upon occasion, stated residents using the trails are supposed to take their trash with them.

“It’s an absolutely beautiful place, and we all enjoy and love it. We would appreciate if people would follow the ‘pack it in, pack it out,’ process,” she said. “There is a lot more trash now, and if anyone is interested, we would love to have volunteers help us. If anyone needs community service hours – for high school or otherwise – we would love to sign those forms. We have a young man who spends half a day each weekend picking up trash, bagging it, and throwing it away in the FPUD dumpster as community hours.”

In addition to leaving litter, individuals have also been drinking illegally and trespassing after hours to hold bonfire parties in the Sandia Creek riverbed, leaving behind glass bottles and other drinking paraphernalia.

“We once found a beer pong table and boxes of bottles along the trees,” said Clark. “We know that some parents are no longer taking their children to the trails on the weekends because there is an older crowd there, with underage drinking. We wouldn’t want to have a child get hurt from the glass that is left by them.”

Detective Clark stated the Sheriff’s Department will more frequently be enforcing and citing those who are conducting illegal activity in the area.

“We will be holding operations over the weekends, have a more visible presence, and might vary patrols from weekend to weekend,” said Clark. “We started giving out information about the tighter regulations on June 16, and we will have a zero tolerance. Currently, no additional funds have been requested, but if we need to increase patrols, we might request FPUD fund officers to patrol a few days a week.”

North County Fire, the Sheriff’s Department and the Trails Council have all been happy with FPUD’s response to concerns by community members.

“FPUD has been very responsive, and has asked for ways to notify the public of the county codes,” said Clark. “Those new signs have been put up, and we will be enforcing the ordinances now that this information has been released.”

To volunteer for the Trails Council, contact Donna Gebhart at [email protected] To report a fire or illegal activity at the Sandia Creek trails, call 911.

19 Responses to "Agencies address safety of Sandia Creek River Trails – Illegal activity a concern"

  1. Brenda   July 25, 2014 at 12:18 am

    My husband, grand daughter and I were just out there so she could enjoy the water since it was so hot. We noticed new signs out which we also noticed people pulling them out of the ground. We left and went to FPUD wanting to know if we could still come out this weekend to relax in the cool water but it sounded like they were going to shut it down completely.
    We are local Fallbrook retired residents and would be more than happy to volunteer our time for clean up just so we can still go and enjoy this beautiful place. We will email the person to contact for volunteering. I have seen the under aged drinkers out there and they don’t care about keeping it beautiful! I really think a big dumpster would be great and maybe they will carry their trash to the dumpster. When we are there I have warned people that if they don’t take their trash out and leave this place clean it will be shut down. Sad to say they just give me that dirty look like I should mind my own business. I am mad and don’t want to lose this great place to take my family due to under aged careless brats who are ruining this for everyone.

  2. Sandia Creak area Resident   July 25, 2014 at 9:51 am

    It’s about time someone is doing something about all this BS! I grew up living out in the DeLuz area, and I am disgusted every time I am in town to visit. More and more cars parked on the side of the roads often times in the street or up a dirt embankment, people taking charcoal BBQs out when it’s clear it’s an extreme high fire area, and the trash is unbelievable!!! The roads are not the safest sober, so I fear for my family, myself, and neighbors who are out driving on the roads. This area should be patrolled at all hours… I’d LOVE to see this place shut down to the party people! Keep beautiful Fallbrook clean and safe…!!!!

  3. Trent   July 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    My wife, dogs and I were just there Thursday afternoon and the place was trashed. We picked up a 18 pack of beer cans and a bunch of other trash people had scattered around. We did see a bunch of teenagers coming down with beer when we were leaving. I wish they don’t close this place down. One of the best places I go to after work to relax and see my dogs have a little fun in the water.

  4. Fallbrook Mom   July 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I am so disappointed! Every time I go down to bring my children swimming we leave with bags of trash that we pick up. I really hope that they can open up the trail soon. Something makes me wonder if the horse riders will get citations, or if its just the less wealthy people bringing their children to cool down. Sad. There is no justice. Rich kids party down there and ruin it for all the families who actually appreciate the river.

    If anyone knows another place my small children can enjoy around town with water/swimming please respond, it would be greatly appreciated!

  5. fallbrook resident   July 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Im a local & have been going to the water hole since I was 3. I take my kids there now & they love it. We always take trash bags for our mess, unfortunately not everyone does the same. I would hate it if the close it down. I’m wondering if us fallbrook residents can do something??

  6. DeLuz resident   July 25, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Its about time the sheriff started patroling this beautiful area. The cars parked on Sandia Creek and all the drinking and illegal fires. I know my grandson camps overnight sometimes. I think that perhaps a FEE would be in order since these irresponsible party crowd can’t clean up. Perhaps some dumpsters can be placed at the exit and MAYBE some trash can be deposited as they leave. It’s an awesome place but it’s getting trashed. One thing that was not mentioned is the lack of porta potties?? Oh and the homeless that camp out is another story… I like the idea of citing cars parked on Sandia Creek which has no shoulder and 100 year old oak trees that line Sandia creek. Enforcement…..Enforcement….Enforcement is the only thing that will get their attention.

  7. Brenda   July 25, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    The FPUD is having a meeting on Monday at 4:00pm about this matter. They told my husband we can come and voice or opinion as to what we would like to see done . I think it would be great to see other Fallbrook residents come and join the meeting. There are a lot of us who love to take our families and dogs out there to play in the water and relax. Unfortunately by the afternoon it is packed with so many under aged drinkers with fowl mouths trashing the place. We even saw fire rings made with rocks! Again, we don’t want this beautiful area closed down, we want the thugs out! Please check with the FPUD to verify the time and date of the meeting. They told us the meeting wasn’t all about this, but they will be discussing it.

  8. #4 ...........   July 26, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Fallbrook Mom, the answer to your question is the swimming pool at Fallbrook High School. Safe, clean and you won’t have to deal with riff raff out in the boonies. You’re welcome!

  9. DeLuz couple   July 26, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Coming up De Luz I used to comment that it was so litter free. Now, I see litter on the side of the road that is not only just thrown out fast food & drink containers, but also deliberately thrown toilet paper streamers. The Sandia Creek area was a mess on the last weekend. I had not known so many people came up and abused the privilege of enjoying God’s work in this area until I and my wife took a drive to the Sandia Creek main trail point.

    We usually go to the wide spot of river up from the bridge just past mile marker 2 on De Luz rd. It takes some walking and thrashing around to get there but it is clean & quiet, with no trash or evidence of fire pits. There is really no parking around there except a spot or two. We are usually alone and only stay a couple of hours. There is a small sand beach and the water is easily accessed.

    I have no worry that this spot will be made over or taken over because it takes work to get there. Only those who are nature lovers would take the time to go there.

  10. Barry   July 26, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Me and my 2 buddies were up there monday on 7/20 and we got there at 9am and cleaned up all the trash on the beach. we even raked the whole beach, covered the pits with new sand and siffted as much glass and cig buds from those pits. it almost looked like new and we were happy with the outcome. Ive been going to the creek for a few years now and i do drink there, but i always manage to clean up after myself but we never have fires. It makes me sad that all the work we did monday was for nothing.

  11. joss   July 26, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    We have a surplus of idiots and kindling. Its frustrating that the survival of the community is at the mercy of the criminally stupid.

  12. Rock Mountain Resident   July 26, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Thank goodness!!! Our family couldn’t be happier!!! What !0 yrs ago used to be a nice, peaceful place to go for a picnic or just relax by the river; has turned into a majpr party place. Especially on Sundays. There used to be lots of wildlife to see. They’ve all been scared off. On Sundays there are so many cars starting up Sandia Creek Rd after going over the bridge. Then, if we go to Temecul, by the swimming hole they line both sides of the road for at least 1/2 a mile. It makes us sick to where we hate to look. There’s plenty of space for families to enjoy a nice quiet time on the side still left with the walking trail. Hiking down a little ways has everything.

  13. MyView   July 26, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Someone suggested taking photos of all the crowded parking, piles of trash and all of the other problems down there at the river. Then present copies of the photos along with your concerns & suggestions for the area to the FPUD board members. I think that their next meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 28. The open session for the public begins at 4 pm. FPUD’S address is 990 E. Mission Road.
    It would be a shame if those residents of Fallbrook who truly respect the area were no longer able to enjoy this beautiful place because of the carelessness & disrespect of others.

  14. ERIN   July 27, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Hit them where it hurts. Tow every car that is illegally parked. Make them show up in person to pay all fines and fees.

  15. momz   July 27, 2014 at 10:57 am

    We used to go to the water hole last summer. To enjoy the nature and beauty as my kids would swim and relax. The last time we were there, Huge amount of trash, and teenagers cussing and running a muck, underage drinking and smoking. I have not returned since. I remember being young and having fun, but I never left my trash for someone else to clean. I guess, clean up after yourself is not instilled into the younger generation.

    Thank you Barry #10 I’m sure a few of us appreciate your time and effort to clean it up.

  16. grunt   July 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    IS patrolling this area something the Volunteer sheriff patrol can do? I know they are excellent at directing traffic, and many other things they do (sometimes more professional than some of the sworn officers). Not expecting them to be law enforcement – but they can see and then report or call in the SO. Just having a couple of uniforms around will stop a lot of nonsense.

  17. FB Resident   July 29, 2014 at 10:01 am

    It would probably more effective to put in some safe fire pits and barbeques for people to use, as well as trash cans or a dumpster. I haven’t been, but I would assume there would be somewhere to throw trash and wouldn’t think to bring my own trash bag (NOT that I would leave it on the ground though!).
    Can someone please tell me how to get to this watering hole- this is news to me and I have lived in DeLuz for 8 years. We would love a cool place to swim.

  18. Andrea   July 29, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    My friends and I have gone down there a few times to cool off and enjoy ourselves. We drink and bring food, but we always pack out our stuff. We fear that if we don’t clean up this amazing place will be shut down. My friend went down there today and said there were " No Trepassing" signs down there. Has it been shut down? I also think a dumpster would be a great idea. We had to haul our trash back home and toss it. ( not that it was a huge deal)

  19. De Luz Resident   July 29, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I have lived in De Luz for 20 years, used to love going down to the trails to hike and enjoy the fresh air. I am so disgusted with what has happened here, and I am really hoping that law enforcement takes it as serious as I do. There are so many things happening that it is surprising that people have gotten away with it for this long. The main part of the problem is the amounts of trash I see driving this road everyday. People have no respect for this beautiful place. The amount of cars illegally parked and blocking the road is unacceptable. There is a huge risk of someone getting hit or even injured at the river. I have seen shards of glass, cigarettes, and many of other things on the trails or even in the sand on the riverbed. The illegal fire pits and barbecuing is extremely dangerous it puts all of us De luz residents at risk of damage or even losing our homes. This place used to be somewhere you could go and relax, I am now to scared to even go down there. I truly believe that is law enforcement took this matter serious that we would be able to get the river safe for families.


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