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The new office in Hidden Meadows is completely owned by the Escondido Creek Conservancy. Courtesy photo
The new office in Hidden Meadows is completely owned by the Escondido Creek Conservancy. Courtesy photo
ColumnsConservancy CornerEnvironment

Escondido Creek Conservancy achieves Boulder Outlook milestone

By Kevin Barnard

With critical assistance from the Parker Foundation, Dr. George Sardina and 315 wonderful supporters, we have reached a huge milestone in the Boulder Outlook project, The Escondido Creek Conservancy’s new home and base of operations.

We received the final inspection and approval from San Diego County and have begun to move into our new digs in Hidden Meadows!

Having the building as a base of operation will allow us to better collaborate internally with our team and externally with our conservation partners.

While the world has changed in the last three years, the need for people to be together is more important than ever. Having our own space eliminates the unpredictability and uncertainty of tenancy, which has resulted in disruptive moves and rent increases.

The building was in rough shape. Photo by Richard Murphy
The building was in rough shape. Photo by Richard MurphyEscondido Creek Conservancy 

Now our office is wholly owned by the Conservancy, and we have invested in our future. The building will also serve as a location for Conservancy and, eventually, conservation partner events, including retreats and training.

To appreciate the heavy lift this project was, one would have to have seen the building in the condition in which we inherited it. It could’ve easily been a tear-down, but thanks to inspired visions from our own organization to keep material from being landfilled and, more specifically, architect Drew Hubbell, we embarked on a major remodel about 3 years ago.

The timing could not have been worse, with Covid hitting just as we started the project, resulting in a 14-month wait for permits alone. Then we were hit with material price increases and had tremendous difficulty lining up contractors as the pandemic progressed.

We tried to take on as much of the project ourselves with the help of scores of volunteers, staff, and board members pitching in everywhere they could. I estimate we saved about $80,000 on the project with everyone’s help.

The results are spectacular, still a humble building, but now reimagined, with a priceless view of the upper Escondido Creek watershed, Daley Ranch, Palomar Mountain, the San Bernardino, and San Jacinto mountains in the background. I fully expect the building and its location to be the source of inspiration for staff, board, and supporters of the Conservancy’s mission.

There are lots of people that I would like to credit for contributing to this project, but I have limited space, so I’ll focus on a few “above and beyond” individuals. We’ll recognize everyone who contributed (and will contribute) when we have an open house(s) after we install the landscape, which will include donor bricks that will adorn the grounds around the building.

We now shift our focus to the exterior of the building and installing a landscape of California native fire-safe plants.

Our first contractor, Shermanco, an extraordinary father-son duo, immediately saw our vision. Son Gray was incredibly patient and creative with this project. He stuck with this effort through great personal tragedy, with his father and business partner Barry suddenly passing away early in the process.

The Boulder Outlook project has come a long way. Courtesy photo
The Boulder Outlook project has come a long way. Courtesy photo

The delays, subcontracting challenges, and moving targets with material prices and availability made for a tough few years. Gray and his family should be proud of the results and of his professionalism throughout.

By sticking with this project through difficult circumstances, Gray has honored his father by leaving us with a beautiful building that will spark conservation success in North County for decades to come. We are greatly appreciative of their efforts!

Our former board president and founding member, Leonard Wittwer, was incredible, pitching in all along, picking up where I left off in several areas and sticking with it still to this day.

Bill Toone, famous for his work saving the California Condor decades ago, built us a twenty-four-foot-long conference table from a local Torrey Pine that succumbed to age and the Cocos fire in Harmony Grove in 2014. Never one to sit on his laurels, he has continued to contribute even in “retirement”.

Keep your eye on our website events page https://escondidocreek.org/events/ and follow us on Eventbrite to get involved in Conservancy activities. We have reserved an office within the building to rent to a compatible tenant and are still fundraising to complete the landscape.

Please contact Ann Van Leer at [email protected] if you’d like more information on the rental space opportunity or to contribute and/or buy a brick. https://escondidocreek.org/news/buy-a-brick-to-leave-a-legacy-of-conservation/. See a picture gallery of Boulder Outlook at https://escondidocreek.org/news/office/.

Kevin Barnard is a board member of the Escondido Creek Conservancy.