By Jay Wilson
“Connecting with Nature” was the theme of the 14th annual Explore Mission Trails Day on May 21. Over 3,000 families and friends participated from the Visitor Center to the East Fortuna Staging Area. There were the ever-popular pony rides; you could climb the rock wall; take a guided nature walk; check out the energy-efficient electric cars with SDG&E; make a craft; view sunspots on the Visitor Center Terrace; or take a “Bug Walk” with an MTRP Volunteer Trail Guide. The day ended with a star party at the Kumeyaay Lake Campground Parking Lot. It was a fantastic day for everyone.
On behalf of MTRP and the MTRP Foundation staff, we thank the more than 100 volunteers who made this event possible and our key sponsors: City of San Diego Special Promotional Program Fund, County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund, Republic Services Inc., Superior Ready Mix, Kaiser Permanente Foundation, SDG&E, Lightspeed Outdoors, and San Diego Family Magazine.
On Friday, June 10, 52 sixth grade students from Mann Middle School participated in an overnight educational field trip pilot program funded by an SDG&E Environmental Champions grant, and offered by the MTRP Foundation. At the Kumeyaay Lake Campground, the students learned how to assemble their tents and air beds donated to the MTRP Foundation by Del Cerro resident Brian Cox and his company, Lightspeed Outdoors, Inc. Students then met with Alicia Berg, the education program instructor for the MTRP Foundation, for a 90-minute guided nature walk and an outdoor classroom program on the importance of preserving the open space environment. Then Sam Brown, a Kumeyaay elder, and a member of the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, provided a program about the history and culture of the Kumeyaay Nation. In the evening, members of the San Diego Astronomy Association brought in their large telescopes for a star party.
Saturday morning, the students packed up their tents and air beds and took a self-guided walk into the grasslands before returning to Mann Middle School. Another group of students from Mann is scheduled for the following week and Montgomery Middle School is scheduled for July.
The program was developed as an alternative to the weeklong sixth grade camp that the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) stopped funding three years ago. MTRP Foundation staff worked with Haynes Pitts with the SDUSD Office of Race, Human Relations & Advocacy, and school board member Kevin Beiser, along with City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department staff; Senior Ranger Andy Quinn, Deputy Director Open Space Division Chris Zirkle, and Steve Haupt, the Manager of the Open Space to develop this program.
Through the SDG&E Environmental Champion grants over the past four years, the MTRP Foundation has conducted educational field trips for over 12,000 K-8 grade students from throughout San Diego County. To ensure the one-day and overnight field trip programs continue, Morgan Justice-Black, the Community Relations Manager for SDG&E, stopped by the field trip and presented the MTRP Foundation with a new Environmental Champions grant for $25,000.
Music – Free concerts continue in the Visitor Center Theater. Enjoy sensational guitarist James Earp on July 3. On July 17, Carol Pelkner and Jim George will entertain you with marimba, vibraphone and clarinet. Concerts begin at 3 p.m. on designated Sundays and some Saturdays.
24th Annual Amateur Photo Contest – Over 140 entries will be on display in the Visitor Center Gallery from June 18 through July 15. View the show and vote for your favorite photo as part of the People’s Choice Award. There will also be a public reception and awards program on Sunday, June 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Visitor Center.
Summer Day Camps for children 6 through 12 – Four summer day camps have been scheduled: July 11 to 15 – River Camp; July 25 to 29 – Creepy Crawly Camp; Aug. 1 to 5 -Nocturnal Creatures; and Aug. 15 to 19 – Nature Detectives Camp. Each session is from 10 to 2 p.m. The cost per child is $125 for each camp or $100 each if the child attends all four camps. Check the MTRP homepage – mtrp.org – under “More News” for more information and registration forms. The maximum number of children per summer day camp is 20.
—Jay Wilson is executive director of the Mission trails Regional Park Foundation. Reach him at email@example.com.