With its rich topography and educational opportunities, visitors can truly learn to love the land at Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve. A variety of animals call the preserve home, from hummingbirds and red-tailed hawks to coyotes and mule deer, and the Goodan Ranch Center houses raptors, snakes, and wildlife and history exhibits. Equestrians, cyclists, and hikers can enjoy the 10 miles of trails winding through meadows and woodlands. We spoke with Supervising Park Ranger Maureen Abare-Laudy to learn more about this natural and historical treasure.
Q&A with Supervising Park Ranger Maureen Abare-Laudy
What is the history behind Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve?
Sycamore Canyon Preserve was acquired in 1964, and acquisition efforts are ongoing. Goodan Ranch was acquired in 1991 jointly by the County, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Santee, and the City of Poway. The Goodan Ranch Center was erected following the 2003 Cedar Fire next to the original ranch house. According to Carol Billhardt Crafts’s A History of the Land Then and Now, “May Chandler Goodan (family owned the LA Times newspaper) and Roger Goodan purchased land in Sycamore Canyon in 1938. In 1943 they added more acreage, a hundred head of cattle, many horses, and their ranch became a vacation haven for friends and family. Electricity and phone service came to the ranch in 1952.”
How have the ranch house and preserve changed over the years? How did the Cedar Fire impact the park?
The Cedar Fire burned 99 percent of the preserve. For many years, the ranch house was used as a ranger residence, and it was transitioned in 2001 into the ranger office. Most of the oak woodlands were charred but they survived, however, that damage combined with drought conditions and invasive species have led to the loss of many oak trees. It took five years for most of the chaparral to recover. Wildlife populations were negatively impacted depending on the species. The Goodan Ranch house is still partially standing, including the wind mill, equipment shed, and two vault toilets.
“What I find enjoyable is seeing fantastic native wildlife daily, and observing the recovery of the gorgeous plants and trees over the years following complete fire devastation.”
What amenities, activities, and programs are available for the community?
The preserve offers more than 10 miles of trails from easy to difficult terrain connecting to the West Sycamore, City of San Diego trail system. The Goodan Ranch Center – a 3,000-square-foot LEED-certified green building – hosts historic and live wildlife exhibits. The preserve offers a large variety of programs for children and adults, both educational and recreational, all posted on the Parks website at www.sdparks.org.
Equestrian access includes two staging areas with restrooms and a picnic ramada.
Can you please elaborate on the vegetation and wildlife of Sycamore Canyon Preserve?
Besides the basic description above, the preserve also hosts a variety of birds and snake species. The best wildlife viewing is in early morning or during evening hours; night hikes allow the visitor a unique experience.
What is your role with the park?
I’m the supervising park ranger. My job involves managing staff, volunteers, daily operations, native exhibit animal care, interfacing with the public and internal and external agencies, enforcement, project improvement planning, interpretation planning, biology, and serving as arch monitoring liaison.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role? And the most enjoyable aspect?
Things that prove challenging at times include performing enforcement and providing protection of our wildlife habitats. What I find enjoyable is seeing fantastic native wildlife daily, and observing the recovery of the gorgeous plants and trees over the years following complete fire devastation.
Supervising Park Ranger At-A-Glance
Name: Maureen Abare-Laudy
Title: Supervising Park Ranger
Favorite Spot in 92064: Sycamore Canyon Preserve
Hobbies & Interests: Cycling, photography, Aussie training, hiking, volunteering, wildlife traveling, education, raptor care
What organizations maintain and support the park?
The Friends of Goodan Ranch, the City of Poway, and the City of Santee support our park through volunteers and program advertising. We also receive advertising support from the County News Center.
Can you tell us a bit more about Friends of Goodan Ranch & Sycamore Canyon?
The Friends group has been in existence for about 20 years. Additional information can be found at www.goodanranch.org. Carol Crafts is the long-time president of this group and has been very active and supportive. The group provides financial donations as well.
“During heavy rainy seasons, we have flowing creeks and a pond.”
How many staff members or volunteers are involved with the ranch and preserve? Can you tell us more about their roles?
Preserve County staff consists of a supervising park ranger, park ranger, park maintenance worker, and several park attendants. Occasionally we have an onsite volunteer and support from the Friends of Goodan Ranch & Sycamore Canyon Preserve. Staff performs daily operations, maintenance, public programs, enforcement, security, and habitat restoration.
Animals of Sycamore Canyon
Red Tail Hawks
Great Horned Owls
What are some lesser known facts about the park?
During heavy rainy seasons, we have flowing creeks and a pond. Chocolate Lilies bloom in the spring. Evidence of the Kumeyaay habitation is found throughout the area. There is a dramatic difference in temperature between winter and summer – from freezing winter nights to 100+ degree days in the summer.
What are the short-term goals for Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve? Long-term?
In the short-term, we are always working on increasing the variety of programs that we offer and increasing visitor participation. Longer-term projects include securing a legal, contiguous trail from Goodan Ranch to Santee and providing access and management plans to newly acquired properties that add to the preserve’s acreage.
Vegetation of Sycamore Canyon
Coastal Sage Scrub
Native and Nonnative Grasslands
“The best wildlife viewing is in early morning or during evening hours; night hikes allow the visitor a unique experience.”
Does Goodan Ranch need volunteers? How should those interested in volunteering get involved?
The preserve periodically needs live-in volunteers to perform maintenance and to enhance existing security measures. The Friends group is always welcoming active volunteers for educational and wildlife monitoring support. Volunteers are also recruited through County Parks’ volunteer coordinator.
Are there any upcoming events that you’d like our readers to know about, or anything else you’d like to share?
The preserve hosts ongoing star parties the second Friday of every month and offers wildlife programs, night hikes, scavenger hunts, and recreation events. Visit www.sdparks.org for current programming.
Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve | At-A-Glance
Manager: County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation
Address: 16281 Sycamore Canyon Rd., Poway CA 92064
Website: www.sdparks.org or www.goodanranch.org
Size: 2,300+ acres
Volunteers: Two live-in volunteers and an active 12-member group
Description: Sycamore Canyon County Preserve offers both steep and flat topography with hillsides that are mainly covered with chaparral. Visitors enjoy grassy meadows, oak woodlands, two seasonal creeks, riparian willows, sycamore trees, and views of surrounding eastern mountains and the cities of Santee and San Diego. They also enjoy 10 miles of multi-use trails (for equestrians, cyclists, and hikers alike!), the natural shade of Martha’s Grove, and a 3,000-square-foot visitor center that houses live native animals, raptors, snakes, and local history and wildlife exhibits.