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After a vote by Facebook followers the "People's Choice Award“ goes to "Red Jumping Spiderman” by Sabine Kurz-Sherman. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve 2019 Photo Contest Winners Inspired by Nature

At its November 13 meeting, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors recognized amateur photographers for their winning images captured in the 14th annual Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve photo contest.

“I am impressed with the quality of images and talent of Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve visitors,” said Bob Kephart, OMWD board secretary. “This year’s winning images put together a strong case for just how important it is to preserve open space for native habitat.”

Contest entries help to promote Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve and educate the public on the importance of wildlife and habitat protection. There were 84 entries in five categories: Scenic View, Water Scenery, Plants, Animals, and Youth (under 15 years of age).

The public also selected a People’s Choice Award winner by voting for their favorite photo from among 10 entries posted on the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve’s Facebook page.

Small details inspire 2019 Best In Show photographer

Best-in-Show winner Francesca Hummler explained to the board, “I fell in love with photography in high school as a darkroom assistant. I particularly enjoy macro photography, a style which I found suited the color and repetition of the plant in my photograph well.”

See all seven winners:

“Paint Brushes” by Francesca Hummler – Best in Show

“Paint Brushes” by Francesca Hummler received this year's "Best in Show" award. Courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

“Paint Brushes” by Francesca Hummler received this year’s Best in Show award. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Misty Morning Over Lake” by Jeff Brock – Scenic View

“Misty Morning Over Lake” by Jeff Brock won in the Scenic View category. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

“Misty Morning Over Lake” by Jeff Brock won in the Scenic View category. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Behind the Grass” by Daniel Humphrey – Water Scenery

“Behind the Grass” by Daniel Humphrey won in the Water Scenery category. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

“Behind the Grass” by Daniel Humphrey won in the Water Scenery category. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Shine Bright” by Maria Ana Karina Lara – Plants

“Shine Bright” by Maria Ana Karina Lara is the winner in the "Plants" category. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

“Shine Bright” by Maria Ana Karina Lara is the Plants category winner. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Western Fence Lizard” by Karen Wood – Animals

The "Animals" category winner is taken by “Western Fence Lizard” by Karen Wood. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The Animals category winner is “Western Fence Lizard” by Karen Wood. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“New World” by Stella Klins – Youth

This year's Youth category winner is Stella Klins for "New World." Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

This year’s Youth category winner is Stella Klins for “New World.” Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Red Jumping Spiderman” by Sabine Kurz-Sherman – People’s Choice

After a vote by Facebook followers the "People's Choice Award“ goes to "Red Jumping Spiderman” by Sabine Kurz-Sherman. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

After a vote by Olivenhain’s Facebook followers the “People’s Choice Award“ was “Red Jumping Spiderman” by Sabine Kurz-Sherman. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Prizes included tickets donated by San Diego Zoo, a 24” x 36” canvas print donated by PC Photo & Imaging, outdoor equipment donated by REI, and a $100 cash prize donated by contest partner Escondido Creek Conservancy.

All of this year’s winning photographs will be on display from January 1 to April 30, 2020, at the Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty located in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve’s staging area.

READ MORE: San Diego Grown Photo Contest Highlights Agriculture

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Local Photographers Honored for Their Images of Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

Encinitas, Calif.— At its November 13 meeting, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors recognized amateur photographers for their winning images captured in the fourteenth annual Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve photo contest.

“I am impressed with the quality of images and talent of EFRR visitors,” said OMWD Board Secretary Bob Kephart. “This year’s winning images put together a strong case for just how important it is to preserve open space for native habitat.”

Lake Jennings staff including Recreation Manager Kira Haley (front row, fifth from left) rely on their dedicated volunteers including Lori Stangel (front row, sixth from left). Photo: Helix Water District

Volunteer Opportunities at Water Agency Reservoirs in San Diego County

People around the world know the San Diego region for its beautiful setting along the Pacific Ocean. But visitors, and even many local residents, aren’t aware of the recreational activities available year-round at area reservoirs.

There are 24 reservoirs in San Diego County. Of these, there are 18 fishable lakes and some offer overnight camping. Popular activities also include boating, kayaking, hiking, and picnicking.

Lake Jennings Reservoir, east of El Cajon, is called a “hidden jewel.” Lake Jennings Recreation Manager Kira Haley admits she didn’t know much about the lake even though she grew up in nearby La Mesa.

“It’s a beautiful resource, and it’s so close to home,” said Haley.

Volunteers help maintain the Lake Jennings campsites, which include five tipis. Photo: Helix Water DIstrict

Volunteers help maintain the Lake Jennings campsites, which include five tipis. Photo: Helix Water District

Volunteers help Lake Jennings operations become self-sustaining

Haley arrived in December 2014 with the goal of making the Lake Jennings self-sustaining. Recent park upgrades and an aggressive outreach program have attracted new visitors. The Helix Water District considered closing the park due to financial losses. But in 2018, Lake Jennings Park made a profit for the first time.

Onsite volunteers make a significant contribution to park operations. Onsite volunteers live full-time at Lake Jennings in campers and trailers in exchange for campsite space and electricity. They perform key roles by staffing the information and registration kiosk, monitoring and maintaining the 97 campsites, answering questions, and responding on-call 24 hours. All volunteers receive training in first aid and evacuation procedures.

“We find the volunteers through word of mouth or regular campers who retire,” said Haley. “Some work other jobs and still volunteer 24 hours each week. Their backgrounds are varied. Some have been with us for many years.”

Visitors can enjoy hiking year-round at Lake Jennings. Trail maps are available from volunteers at the campground kiosk. Photo: Helix Water District

Visitors can enjoy hiking year-round at Lake Jennings. Trail maps are available from volunteers at the campground kiosk. Photo: Helix Water District

Eight campsites are home to the volunteers, whether individuals or couples. Haley is currently recruiting new volunteers. The Helix Water District oversees the hiring process. Applications are now available on the Helix Water District website jobs page.

“It’s wonderful to live in a place like this in a natural open space situation,” said Haley. “There is a grocery store a mile away, but when you’re here, you feel like you’re in the wilderness. Everyone who comes out here is looking to have a great time. It makes for a wonderful work environment.”

Retired teacher puts her experience to work at Lake Jennings

Volunteer Lori Stangel arrived at Lake Jennings five years ago intending to stay six months, but is still a dedicated onsite volunteer host. Photo: Helix Water District

Intending to stay six months, Lori Stangel has worked as an onsite volunteer host for five years. Photo: Helix Water District

Retired kindergarten teacher Lori Stangel returned to her native San Diego after working in Arizona. She and her husband Chuck found a notice online about Lake Jennings volunteer opportunities and thought the six-month assignment would provide an ideal transition. Five years later, the Stangels are still living and working at Lake Jennings.

“I love nature, and I love being outdoors,” said Lori Stangel. “I love working with the public, and I work for the best staff and administration at Helix you can imagine. They make me feel welcome; it means a lot to me.”

Stangel puts her 30 years of experience as an educator into her volunteer role.

“I get to educate people and families about nature through the outdoors,” said Stangel. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for retired people, but also for young people. They can still go to school or work part-time. It’s a win-win. I’m here because I love it.”

As a Ms. California Senior America pageant competitor, Stangel also spreads the word about Lake Jennings as a valued environmental resource in her personal advocacy platform.

Additional San Diego County Water Authority member agency recreational facilities with volunteer opportunities include Santee Lakes, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, Olivenhain Municipal Water District.

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Celebrate Coastal Cleanup Day at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve on September 21

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District has teamed up with I Love a Clean San Diego for California Coastal Cleanup Day 2019 to protect habitat at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. Volunteers are invited to assist OMWD rangers in removing trash and debris from Escondido Creek on September 21 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

 

The newly opened Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Interpretive Center was constructed as a centerpiece of environmental education through a cooperative effort. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Celebrates Decade of Outdoor Education

Residents, volunteers, and officials gathered June 1 at the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Escondido to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Interpretive Center honoring Susan J. Varty.

Visitors explore the Interpretive Center on its opening day June 1. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Visitors explore the Interpretive Center on its opening day June 1. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Located at OMWD’s Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, the center was constructed as a centerpiece of environmental education through a cooperative effort between OMWD and the Escondido Creek Conservancy.

“As we celebrate ten years of operation, we couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished by working together,” said OMWD Board Secretary Robert Kephart. “Yet, without the dedicated support of docents and donors, this one-of-a-kind facility with its many successful education programs would not have been possible. We also honor their efforts today.”

The Center’s namesake, Susan J. Varty, served as an OMWD board director from 1994 until her death in 2009. She exhibited a passion and tenacity for water issues and environmental preservation.

Reserve provides regional resource for outdoor education, and environmental appreciation

The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve provides a wealth of opportunities for recreation, outdoor education, and environmental appreciation for all ages. Photo: Olivehain Municipal Water District

The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve provides a wealth of opportunities for recreation, outdoor education, and environmental appreciation for all ages. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve provides a wealth of opportunities for recreation, outdoor education, and environmental appreciation.

Olivenhain partnered with the San Diego County Water Authority and the Bureau of Land Management to develop the 784-acre Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve as part of the regional Emergency Storage Project. The reserve opened in 1992. Currently, the reserve offers approximately 11 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails, as well as picnic areas and scenic mountain viewing points.

The Escondido Creek Conservancy has formed alliances with landowners, government agencies, and education and community groups to increase awareness of the invaluable resources intrinsic to the Escondido Creek watershed.

Originally, Olivenhain planned to construct a cinder block building with the assistance of a $68,500 grant from California’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The Conservancy sought at the same time to establish a location close to Escondido Creek for hosting educational programs. The timing allowed the organizations to form a mutually beneficial partnership.

The new Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve's Interpretive Center features The building also features green design elements such as recycled building materials, solar panels powered by photovoltaic cells, and a green roof. Photo: Olivehain Municipal Water District

The new Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve’s Interpretive Center features green design elements such as recycled building materials, solar panels powered by photovoltaic cells, and a green roof. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The Conservancy raised over $565,000 from individual donors to complete the enhanced design and center construction. Another $200,000 was raised for educational programs, including wildlife displays and nature activities.

Renowned local artist James T. Hubbell designed the center and several original works by Hubbell and his collaborations with other artists are on display. The building also features green design elements such as recycled building materials, solar panels powered by photovoltaic cells, and a green roof.

New grant funding provides educational field trips

The new Escondido Creek Eichen Education Fund will continue the joint education programs held at the Elfin Forest's interpretive center in perpetuity. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The new Escondido Creek Eichen Education Fund will continue the joint education programs held at the Elfin Forest’s interpretive center in perpetuity. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

More than 3,650 students visited the reserve on field trips during the 2018-2019 school year. The Conservancy provides the opportunity for students in disadvantaged communities to attend field trips through grant funding. Additional education partners are the Nature Collective and San Diego Zoo.

At the event, the Conservancy announced the creation of the Escondido Creek Eichen Education Fund. The new fund will continue the joint education programs held at the center in perpetuity.

“The Escondido Creek Conservancy’s education department helps bring thousands of underserved, urban-based students from Escondido out to the Elfin Forest every year so they can experience the outdoors, many for the first time in their lives,“ said Conservancy board member Jeff Swenerton. “This is vitally important because we can’t expect the next generation to value nature if they’ve never been exposed to it.

“We’re reaching more children now than in any other time in our organization’s history,” added Swenerton. “It’s very exciting to see the impact we’re making, but we’ve reached a point where we need to launch the Escondido Creek Eichen Education Fund campaign to sustain our success and enable us to continue connecting children with nature.”

The center is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., depending on the availability of the reserve’s 65 docents. View the current docent schedule on the center’s website.