San Dieguito River Valley ConservancySan Dieguito
River Valley Conservancy

We want to inspire in others stewardship for the environment, citizen action, and support for ongoing conservation and protection of the San Dieguito River Valley. One of the best ways to do that is to provide engaging, interactive education programs the highlight the many native species of the River Park, the archaeological history of the region, the effects of climate change, and more.

We are proud to be able to offer such a variety of programs to the public, thanks in part to partnerships with local organizations. We plan to continue to build these relationships and develop new ones to make our education programs even more popular and varied.

Exploring Our Sense of Place

Our popular Exploring Our Sense of Place program allows participants to experience the San Dieguito River Valley in all seasons, to follow its path from mountain to sea, to encounter plant, animal and human inhabitants, and to connect to the River Valley with their heart and minds.

The ESP program is an 8-session seminar series that includes a reception, seven excursions with lectures by experts, and special “reflection time.”

Over 200 Explorers have graduated from the program, all of whom are now able to participate in ESP Alumni hikes and educational experiences.

For more information, click here.

Watershed Explorers

Watershed Explorers is an outdoor education program that provides youth an opportunity to travel and experience the length of the San Dieguito Watershed. Explorers start their journey at the headwaters of the San Dieguito River on Volcan Mountain and then follow the path of the river visiting sites at Lake Sutherland, the San Diego Archaeological Center, Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead, and finally, the award-winning Birdwing Open Air Classroom at the San Dieguito Lagoon.

Each visit focuses on a different theme providing a unique opportunity for participants to experience and learn about the many facets of the watershed from the natural world to its history and cultural significance. As they experience the outdoors, explorers develop a “sense of place” and appreciation for the environment—recognizing they play a role in preserving and protecting the natural and cultural resources of the watershed.

Officially launched in 2015, we developed this program in partnership with the San Dieguito River Park, San Diego Archaeological Center, and Volcan Mountain Foundation as a way for each organization to expand our individual nature education programs.

For more information, click here.

The Birdwing Open Air Classroom at the San Dieguito Lagoon

Completed in 2014, the Birdwing Open-Air Classroom provides a shelter for people of all ages and abilities to learn about the river and the coastal area, including the San Dieguito Lagoon, the “gateway” to San Dieguito River Park. The lagoon has regional ecological significance, providing food and shelter for endangered wildlife and migratory birds. Once the largest lagoon in the northern half of San Diego County, the lagoon wetlands were recently restored by Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric as mitigation for impacts created by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

It was designed by award-winning Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects and the Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects, and is the first educational gathering place at the Lagoon where people can learn about the river and the world around it. It seats approximately 80 people. Located south of Via de la Valle on the north side of the San Dieguito Lagoon, the project includes off-street parking, ADA access and connections to the Coast to Crest Trail and other Lagoon trails.

The total cost for the project was approximately $700,000. An initial $340,000 grant from the County of San Diego, courtesy of former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, was received to start construction of the Birdwing. County Supervisor Dave Roberts secured another grant of $150,000.

The Conservancy raised most of the remaining funds with major gifts from the D’Augustine Family Foundation, the Del Mar Foundation, the Hans & Margaret Doe Family Charitable Trust, Jimbo’s Natural Foods, Joan Griffin, Kimberly Godwin and Tom Wilcox, Tom & Donna Golich, Stephen & Susan Hedrick, the Price Family Charitable Fund, REI, Dee Dee & Ned Reynolds, the William Schwartz, Jr. Memorial Fund, In Memory of Fred Belinsky, Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation, Solana Beach Civic & Historical Society, Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, Southern California Edison, the William Hall Tippett & Ruth Rathell Tippett Foundation, David & Ann Welborn, Whole Foods-Del Mar, and donations from many individual supporters.

The San Dieguito River Park JPA is responsible for managing the Birdwing Open Air Classroom. For more information about holding an event at the Birdwing Open Air Classroom, visit the River Park JPA’s website here.