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Listen to the Red-Tailed Hawk
May 2008 | by Carol Mason


Young parents, not-so-young hikers, Torrey Pines Docents, the Del Mar Garden club rallied to protect against the closure of an incredibly beautiful hiking trail. It leads from Del Mar Terrace to the Heights School within the Torrey Pines Extension. The Del Mar Union School District, with concerns about risk and liability, had threatened to lock the school gates, take out the outdoor classroom, and discourage the use of the trails. Many Del Mar Terrace parents and kids use the trail each day to walk to and from school. They enter the school grounds through gates, and in one part, an outdoor classroom amphitheater on school district property.

This morning walk, one parent said, was one of the nicest parts of the day. Her child's school day started by brushing through shoulder high Coreopsis as he listened to the call of a red-tailed hawk. Several parents have banded together to offer help in maintaining or improving eroded parts of the trail. The Torrey Pines Docents, led by Del Mar's Carol V. Smith, have pledged to help with maintenance, education, and supporting the Park personnel's efforts. This tradition of volunteer involvement illustrates the high value placed by the community on the Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension. Other helping groups have included Boy Scouts, Whacky Weeders, Torrey Pines Association, Del Mar Garden Club and nearby residents.

With all this support the Del Mar School District can hardly destroy the outdoor classroom or lock the gates without seeking common-sense solutions, which fit into today's greener expectations. There are several trails in the Extension, but the Margaret Fleming Teaching Trail, was established in 1976 with Environmental Education License Plate funds from the state.

Margaret Fleming was the beloved widow of the Park's first naturalist, Guy Fleming. By backing right up to the grounds of the Heights School , the TPSR has so enhanced the school site that many have called it the most beautiful school in the state of California .  The Trail was established to teach children the uniqueness of their natural environment among the Torrey Pines. Called the Teaching Trail by teachers and children, its most recent trail guide was written and charmingly illustrated by Maryruth Cox, long-time resident and nature writer.

In past years many teachers at the Heights and at the Hills schools used the outdoor classroom and walked the Teaching Trail with their classes. Now that it is under threat, it is time to rejuvenate outdoor education, give some energy to fixing the trails, and do what the Heights parents and kids did on Earth Day April 22: over 30 children walked joyously to school through fields of wildflowers and Torrey Pines.


Carol Mason is a former Del Mar Union School District teacher and founder of the Margaret Fleming Trail.



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