The City of Carlsbad has begun a project that will help protect the natural wonders at Lake Calavera Preserve, the city’s largest natural preserve, while improving trails for visitors.
Located in northeastern Carlsbad near the Oceanside border, Lake Calavera’s six miles of trails are popular with hikers and bicyclists because they offer exceptional recreation opportunities so close to nature. But that proximity can have a down side, said Steve Jantz, an associate engineer with the City of Carlsbad Parks & Recreation Department.
“The trails near the wetlands have seen some damage from users who venture off the trail when trying to avoid muddy areas of the path. As a result we’ve seen some damage to the natural habitat along the edge of the trail,” Jantz said.
To help protect Lake Calavera as a nature preserve and as a place where people can enjoy natural open space, the City of Carlsbad has begun a project to construct a boardwalk that will elevate one of the park’s more popular trails along Calavera Creek. This project will get hiking boots and bicycle tires off the sensitive wetland while still giving people access to Lake Calavera’s special beauty.
The elevated boardwalk will extend for approximately 900 feet, at up to 2 feet above the ground. At 6 feet wide, it will provide enough space for hikers and bicyclists. The boardwalk will include one creek crossing, but most of it will parallel Calavera Creek on the south bank.
“By raising a boardwalk above ground level, hikers and bicyclists can still use it as a trail through the preserve’s most sensitive areas, but it will eliminate the unintentional damage to the sensitive wetland and creek areas,” Jantz said.
The boardwalk will include kick-guard railings to keep walkers and bicyclists on the composite wood-like surface. Construction of the boardwalk will have some impact on the natural area, so the task includes restoring one-half acre of wetlands to make up for the portion that will be disturbed. The restoration will include removing non-native plants and replanting with native plant species.
Lake Calavera Preserve is the largest of 13 preservation areas the City of Carlsbad has established through its Habitat Management Plan, which is designed to protect the rich diversity of plants and wildlife in San Diego County. The preserve is managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management under a contract with the city.
The City of Carlsbad approved the Lake Calavera Trails Master Plan in January 2010, which identified and authorized trails and trail improvements. As a result, the City of Carlsbad Parks & Recreation Department has improved many of the upland trails, including adding interpretive signs earlier this year, and installing split rail fences in some places to protect native plants, animals and their habitat.
The construction contract for the boardwalk was awarded to San Diego-based I.O. Environmental and Infrastructure Inc., in the amount of $359,000. Work will begin in mid-December and be completed by the middle of February 2014, when many birds in the preserve begin their nesting season. The trails will be rerouted during the construction.
–City of Carlsbad