By Pat ShermanInterpretive dancers clad in billowing white frolicked through Scripps’ blufftop nature reserve Feb. 25 as drummers drummed and a Balinesian dancer blessed the land where La Jollan Indians cooked shellfish brought up from the ocean some 4,400 years ago.
The event was was held to commemorate the addition of a $30,000 steel entrance gate that will provide easier access to the reserve during the day and protect unwanted visitors from tramping through the sensitive habitat at night.
The majority of the funding came from UC San Diego, at the urging of Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, who dedicated the new gate during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Fox said the gate, which offers access to the bluff and a half-mile Biodiversity Trail loop, was an opportunity for the university to be a “good neighbor and for the neighbors in the region to appreciate what we’re trying to do.”
The blufftop reserve, also referred to as “the Knoll,” is one of 37 pieces of land that comprise the UCSD Natural Reserve System, which includes terrain ranging from coastal canyons to a submerged coastal plain.
The bluffs just below and north of the Knoll serve as habitat for nesting Peregrine falcons, which returned to the site in 2005, after a 50-year absence.
Last year, as many as 1,700 students attended classes outside at the reserve. Two research projects funded by the National Science Foundation also are underway there.
“A reserve of this sort has so many different uses,” said Fox, touting its “beauty” and “functionality.”
Fox said the new gate is an extension of the university’s community outreach, which included spending more than $500,000 last year to restore lifeguard services at Black’s Beach, which is accessible from the Knoll via a trail leading down the cliff.
“Even in times of complete austerity we have (to commit) to do things like this,” Fox said.
The trail is home to various wildlife, from lizards and snakes to cottontail rabbits and the threatened California gnat-catcher, a relative of the wren, which feeds on small insects in the coastal sage scrub.
UCSD’s Vice Chancellor for Research, Sandra Brown, said the old gate did not provide adequate security for the sensitive coastal habitat and made the trail difficult for seniors to access.
“We’ve made it a much more inviting and welcoming,” Brown said.
Isabelle Kay, academic coordinator and manager of UCSD’s reserve system, said the gate was 10 years in the making, and came at the urging of many La Jolla Farms residents, including the late surfer Ward Alksne.
Earnest Lotecka and Carol Stultz, who lead hikes for the Sierra Club, found out about the event and the blufftop reserve after receiving a notice from the club.
“We’ve actually never been on this trail,” Lotecka said. “This is a find.”
Encinitas resident Christine Stevens, who led a procession of drummers from the gate to the bluff, said she came to support the preservation of the region’s shores and coastline.
“I think it’s extraordinary,” Stevens said. “Just look at it — it’s such beauty.”
The Knoll, which is accessible from La Jolla Farms Road, is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. No dogs, bicycles or vehicles are allowed. For more information,