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Otay Valley Regional Park Offers a Quick Getaway to the Natural World

By S. Mathur

Located close enough to the city for a family outing, and part of the larger Otay Valley Regional Park, Otay Lakes County Park with hiking trails, bird watching, and wildlife like coyote, gray fox, raccoon, desert cottontail and American badger as well as the Pacific tree frog and garden salamanders living along the water's edge.

The centerpiece of the park the sweeping views of Otay Lake. Located in South County just twenty miles from downtown San Diego and four miles from the international border with Mexico, the park is just a quick trip for city residents who want to get away for a quiet hour or two.

Otay Lakes County Park lies on the Pacific Flyway, and is beloved by birdwatchers. "Birdwatchers have documented more than two hundred species of birds here at Otay LakesCounty Park-- from great blue herons and snowy egrets to the endangered Least Bell's Vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher," says Jessica Geiszler, Marketing and Public Outreach Manager. Otay Lakes County Park is also the eastern gateway to the 8,869-acre Otay Valley Regional Park preserve.

The park is a great location for picnics and family or school outings. Facilities include a large picnic greenspace, areas for BBQs, parties and celebrations, a children's playground, horseshoe pits, a rose garden, a native plant and demonstrative garden. The park is home to the endangered Monarch Butterflies due to its plantings of Milkweed. There are also notable plantings of heirloom eucalyptus trees. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week.

Park rangers, Geiszler explains, are "the caretakers of the park and serve by protecting both the park and its visitors. We also are available for nature hikes upon request. We coordinate several organized events every year, open to families and attendees of all ages, including Movies in the Park and wildlife presentations."

The park rangers partner with local schools through the Leave No Trace campaign, a widely used outdoor ethics program used on public lands. The program provides volunteer and educational opportunities, says Geiszler, to "promote the long-term health of the plants and animals that call this area home. We're doing our part to support the next generation of park ambassadors by instilling within them a desire to make healthy, smart decisions about the natural world."

The human history of the Otay River Valley dates back 9,000 years, when Native Americans settled here due to the region's rich natural resources. From the 1800s onwards, the mesa around the river provided grazing for vast Spanish ranchos while vineyards and farming covered in the valley.

The The Otay Valley Regional Park is one of the major open areas in southern San Diego County, linking the south San Diego Bay with the Otay, San Miguel and the Jamul Mountains. At the present time, it has a rich mix of wildlife, historic, agricultural, and archaeological resources. Plans are in progress to connect the park to the ocean and the 25-mile Bayshore Bikeway.

For more information be sure to check out their website at www.sdparks.org.

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