May 14, 2015 (San Diego)--Explore Mission Trails Day celebrates unparalleled outdoor opportunities within the confines of a major city. Mission Trails Regional Park is one of the nation’s largest urban parks. But it isn’t size alone which sets it apart. Mission Trails Regional Park is a natural—or “open space” urban park. The biodiversity represented here, because of the variety of habitats located within its bounds, is astonishing.
Mountain biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, camping and even rock climbing, all happen in MTRP routinely. Today in the Mission Gorge region of MTRP people picnic, hike or fish around the remnants of the old Mission dam, observe a geological timeline in a rock outcropping and show their children where and how the Kumeyaay lived on the land. They can also join free guided nature walks or take a self-guided walk on one of dozens of trails in this area, ranging in difficulty from easy to very challenging. The Visitor Center itself, with interactive exhibits for kids, telescopes on outside viewing decks, knowledgeable volunteers, and video programs about the Park is a “must-see” for first-time visitors. Maybe you have brought friends or out-of-town guests there, who were amazed.
The East Fortuna region has much gentler terrain and is popular with young families. This area is perfect for a first mountain-biking outing, an exploratory hike up a rocky creek bed, or wildlife viewing in a grasslands habitat. Bird watchers comb the native grasses with their binoculars, seeking that elusive meadowlark, covey of quail or juvenile night heron. Multiple mountain-biking, hiking and equestrian trails crisscross the area.
Year-round as night falls over Mission Trails, the last bicyclists, picnickers and hikers make their way out of the park. As they pass the Visitor Center on Father Junipero Serra Trail they might hear the enticing sounds of a Native American flute concert in the Center’s outdoor amphitheater. Or the yipping of coyote pups echoing off the walls of the Gorge. At the Kumeyaay Lake Campground, amateur stargazers may be discovering new wonders in the night sky with the help of local astronomers.
But we know all this. We are the lucky ones. We use the park frequently, and enthusiastically introduce friends, houseguests, our own children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren to the places and activities we love most. But many San Diegans have no idea this incredible resource exists.
This is what Explore Mission Trails Day is all about. This is why once a year, dozens of free, child-friendly activities are organized by Park Rangers, Volunteer Trail Guides and numerous community organizations during Explore Mission Trails Day. Generous sponsors who contribute money or services make it possible to offer all of these things. Countless hours are involved in planning, organizing and actually putting on this major event.
Since the first event was held in 2003, Explore Mission Trails Day has introduced tens of thousands of young families to a whole new world of natural wonders—right in the heart of San Diego. Fortunately for those who have yet to discover this treasure, all of its charms will still be here tomorrow….