Tag Archives: RiverBlitz

2009, A Santee Review – Part 1


Here at the end of the year, with little going on, I thought it would be a good time to look back over the past 12 months and see what has happened in Santee. In spite of the down economy and the poor housing market, there were a lot of positives. So, without further ado, a review of Santee 2009.

The year kicked off with the Santee Library hosting the first of a series of book discussions centered around the themes of “Love and Forgiveness.” The series was developed by the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute, and the Santee Library was one of 50 around the country chosen to take part. Dr. Martha Stoddard-Holmes, Associate Professor of Literature and Writing Studies at CSU San Marcos, was the host/moderator for the series, which ran through May. Also in January were the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Installation Dinner (which I was unable to attend) and monthly Sunrise Santee and After-5 Mixer. On the down side, I posted a request for help from the Sheriff’s Department after a high school student was attacked by one of a group of 8 young men, suffering severe injuries. I did not hear what followed on the incident.

My final post in January, on the new Edgemoor Hospital facilities, has, interestingly enough, become the top post on my blog. I wrote the post after going to an Open House held at the new location, and after reading a rather scathing opinion piece in the Union-Tribune. In contrast to the impression in the U-T article, I was very impressed with the facilities and the people I met there. The new hospital is now completely up and running and the old facilities are scheduled for the wrecking ball this week.

February started off on a decided down note with the coverage of the search for two suspects in a horrifying child molestation case. Aaron Zendejas had been arrested for providing children he had been hired to babysit to Jared Yaffe, who was wanted in multiple states on child pornography charges. Zendejas later pleaded guilty to charges and faces 15 years to life in prison; Yaffe was arrested in Brazil and will stand trial in April. Also on the crime scene, a postal employee was arrested for stealing gift cards from his route and possibly the post office as well.

On a more positive note, Cajon Park School held a dedication ceremony for its new classroom building and an Open House for the community to see all the work that had been done through the Proposition R programs. This included renovations on the existing buildings and the reconfiguration of their circular classroom building into a Library/Media Center. The new building has classrooms for 5th and 6th grade upstairs and 7th and 8th (junior high) downstairs. The upstairs section is connected to the main school buildings by a bridge.

In February I also wrote a new On Food Patrol about Mimi’s Cafe, a Meet Your Neighbor for the Santee Library’s speaker series, and previews for a Chamber Small Business Seminar, the Miss Santee Pageant, and the Christian Youth Theater production of Honk.

March was a busy month both in Santee and here on the blog. I did one more post on Honk and covered the PLAY (Performing Lakeside Acting Youth) production of Beauty and the Beast at Lakeside Middle School. I missed the Miss Santee Pageant, but I did post a short piece on the winners, Miss Santee, Sierra Billock, and Miss Santee Teen, Nicole Ehlke. These two young women have been very dedicated and involved representatives of the city. I also introduced the Santee Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, who were kicking off the Shop Santee and Save campaign focusing on Santee’s low sales tax rate. The month ended with a post on the preparation work that the U.S. Census was doing for the upcoming 2010 Census.

Every year March brings Santree Fest, a celebration of Earth Day and recognition of Santee as an official Tree City by the National Arbor Day Foundation. This year the event was held at Mast Park, located between Carlton Hills Blvd. and the Wal-Mart shopping center, along the San Diego River. The day included tree planting, trash and non-native vegetation removal, and information booths. There was also entertainment by the group Virtual Strangers, a tree climbing demonstration by West Coast Arborists, and plenty of food provided by local eateries. One of the sponsors of the event, the San Diego River Park Foundation, would be involved in other activities during the year.

April was as busy as March, if not more so. The big event in April, and very likely the year, was the grand opening of the first Sonic Drive In in San Diego County. Not only did it create huge lines all around the restaurant on Mission Gorge, it gave me my biggest single day of traffic, with nearly 600 hits. Because I write about Santee, and am part of the Chamber of Commerce, I was able to attend the special VIP event prior to the full opening on the Monday, April 6. Later on I posted some tips for cutting the hassle of waiting in line, and even a taste-off between Sonic and In-N-Out.

A second major event in April was the Spring Eggstravaganza at Santee Lakes, presented by the City of Santee and Padre Dam. The day included egg hunts, games, rides, and food. Primo DJ provided music and an army of volunteers kept everything running smoothly for the families that came to enjoy the fun. Another important event at Santee Lakes was the annual Relay for Life of Santee for the American Cancer Society. This would be the tenth year for the Relay, which raises money and awareness for the fight against cancer.

Also this month were a pair of grand openings, Frubble and SewCalCuties, the new Santee Farmers Market, the monthly After-5 Mixer, and several other small events. I covered the Omelette Factory for another Food Patrol, did some updates on Sonic traffic, took part in the RiverBlitz survey along the San Diego River, and previewed two health-related events and a new CYT production.

It’s pretty clear that 2009 was a busy year in Santee. Rather than trying to review it all in one post, I will continue my look back with two follow-up posts. Meanwhile, enjoy the end of the year and remember not to drink and drive on New Year’s Eve.


Filed under Business, Chamber Activities, Community, Crime Watch, Entertainment, On Food Patrol, Schools


San Diego River Park Foundation

Saturday, April 11, was the San Diego River Park Foundation’s RiverBlitz – an effort to identify and map problems along the river for later clean up/removal.  The Foundation held one in the Mission Valley section of the river in October of 2008, and through that effort over 24,000 pounds of trash was cleaned out, several invasive plants were removed, and a corroded storm drain was identified and repaired.  This time the focus was on Santee’s section of the river, with several groups splitting the effort.

RiverBlitz Volunteers

Nearly two dozen eager volunteers gathered at Mast Park on a cloudy day, perfect weather for tramping around along the river.  After some required paperwork and guidelines from Blitz leader Shannon Quigley, Field Operations Associate for the San Diego River Park Foundation, we broke up into smaller groups and headed out to our areas.  My group, which included Gary Strawn,  our team leader, Paul Hormick, Eric Jones, and yours truly, was assigned to the south side of the river between Cuyamaca St. and Cottonwood Ave.  After dropping off two of our cars at the softball fields by Rio Seco School, we headed over to an off-street parking area near RCP Block and Brick.  Once there we doled out team assignments – Gary and Eric took lists, Paul took the global positioner, and I took the camera (naturally).  The goal was to identify, locate on GPS, and photograph accumulations of trash, transient camps, and invasive vegetation.  This last can be surprising, since many of what we think of as normal San Diego vegetation is actually non-native, invasive, and harmful to the river environment.

At our starting point we came across our first stand of invasive vegetation – a large grove of eucalyptus.  Even though the eucalyptus is ubiquitous in San Diego County, it is an import from Australia and poses a fire danger, as we saw recently in its homeland and back in 2003 when the Cedar Fire reached Scripps Ranch.  Here Eric, Paul, and Gary (l-r)plot and measure the grove.

Mapping a Eucalyptus Grove

Another problem tree is the tamarisk, or salt cedar.  This invasive not only crowds out local trees because of its rapid reproduction rate, it draws more water and can degrade the soil with its saline excretions.  One area we christened “Tamarisk Flats” because of the enormous number of these trees.  A third tree, or group of trees, is the palm.  Again, a tree we see all around, but not one native to the San Diego River ecosystem.  The most commonly found species are the Mexican fan palm and the Canary Island palm – both of which are very difficult to remove once established.  Other major problem plants are arundo reed and pampas grass, which we did find but I did not photograph with my camera.  Here you can see the rest of the team checking an area with tamarisk and palm trees.

Tamarisk and Palm

Believe it or not, these delicate flowers belong to the invasive tamarisk

Tamarisk Flowers

Trash is a constant problem along the river, whether from casual littering, illegal dumping, or transient camps.  There were some areas that were almost pristine, while other areas just yards away looked like something you would find at the Sycamore Canyon Landfill.  Part of this problem can be solved just by people taking responsibility for their own garbage, but the majority will have to be cleaned out by groups such as the Foundation and the Conservation Corps.  We came across just about everything you could imagine, from bottles and cans to concrete and wire, to broken furniture.  Here is a sample of the trash we came across.

Miscellaneous Trash

Abandoned Transient Camp

Yes, that is a most likely a bathtub that has been dumped in the water.

Dumped Bathtub

This picturesque scene is much more sinister than you would think.  The trees at left of center are tamarisk, and you can see palms in the distance.  There are also some eucalyptus that are harder to pick out, but they are there.  Grove of Invasives

But the real shock comes when you go down into the grove and look around at what was at one time – and could become again – a transient encampment.

Abandoned Transient Camp Area

Transient Encampment

But there is hope – here is an area where native vegetation has been planted in an effort to repair some of the damage that has been done over the years.


You can find traces of local wildlife, such as these raccoon tracks.

Raccoon Tracks

And it is still possible to find a quiet spot to drop your fishing line.  I hear the bluegill and crappie hit well and the bass are starting to pick up.

Fishing on the River

If you are interested in getting involved with the protection and rehabilitation of the San Diego River, you can check out the following groups:

San Diego River Park Foundation (Go to the “Resources” section for many more links)

Project Clean Water

Lakeside’s River Park Conservancy


Filed under Community, Nature