In this new feature, SMGA will ask local residents how they use the Natural Areas and what they find most enjoyable about them. This month’s interview is with Stephen Ramirez, recent past president of the San Marcos River Foundation and co-leader of SMGA’s monthly bird walk.
What is your favorite Natural Area?
My favorite Natural Area is Prospect Park, largely because it’s the closest one to my house and it’s my gateway to the larger Purgatory trail system. I love being able to observe changes in the same area throughout the seasons.
What is your favorite trail?
Every trail has its own special character but one of my favorites is Limbo Loop. I always feel very secluded as I follow the winding trail through the juniper-oak woodland and the limestone outcrops and boulders embedded in the trail give it an adventurous feel.
What do you enjoy doing when in the Natural Area? (birding, photography, hiking)
Most of my time in the natural areas is spent observing and photographing birds (alone or leading a group!) or other wildlife and plants which is very relaxing and rejuvenating. I’m also one of the few mountain unicyclists to occasionally ‘shred’ the trails with my brother.
How important is it that we have these natural areas? (flood mitigation, personal relaxation, meditation)
All of our natural areas are truly invaluable assets and they meet so many needs for humans and the environment. From the plant gurus, nature photographers, weekend walkers, or the hardcore cyclists, there are so many opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors which serves the physical and mental fitness of the community.
What would you like see offered? (benches, guided walks)
For the environment, there is considerable space for our native flora and fauna to thrive, and to serve critical ecosystem services like absorbing rainfall or storing carbon. I’d like to see new programming targeted towards people in the community who are unaware, unfamiliar, or even unsure about taking advantage of our amazing assets.