SRPNEF honors sponsors and volunteers for helping the Santa Rosa Plateau’s nature education programs

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Flamenco guitar duo Carson and Clark entertain for the guests at the Sunday, Sept. 22, Santa Rosa Plateau Nature Education Foundation sponsor and volunteer thank you luncheon at La Cresta’s Plateau Vineyards. Tony Ault photo

Santa Rosa Plateau Nature Education Foundation took time Sunday, Sept. 22, to honor its 2019 sponsors, volunteers and supporters for another successful year in promoting student nature stewardship at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.

The appreciation dinner was held at Plateau Vineyards, 20170 Sierra Soto Road, in Murrieta’s La Cresta area, near the 9,000 acre Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, recently scorched by the Tenaja Fire.

Despite the fire that destroyed the SRPNEF’s summer concert series stage and equipment, the guests learned that plans are underway to rebuild the stage in time for the 2020 SNPNEF Summer Concert series with fundraising events soon to begin.

Ginger Greaves, executive director of Santa Rosa Plateau Nature Education Foundation, welcomed the guests to the luncheon provided by the Naughty Pig and Plateau Vineyards. Presentations were made during the ceremonies and an update on the plateau’s fire damage by Rob Hicks, reserve naturalist for the Riverside County Regional Parks and Open Space District.

The visitors’ center, the two historic adobes and the vernal pools were spared from the fire but the reserve trails remain closed until the burned tree snags are removed and the trails reconstructed, Hicks said. He described the damage to many of the oak trees, chaparral, sage and other vegetation as severe but promised that the winter rains will bring recovery to many of the native plants as nature allows.

“We’re kinda of a holding pattern right now,” Hicks said about the fire three weeks ago. “Even now some fires continue to burn in the interior.”

He said the trails may be closed until some rain events occur this winter.

He described the damage to the reserve by the fire as, “Changed. Probably the lowest word for it you can think of. Dramatic. Ugh. Stark. Vistas changed dramatically. But, from this point, it will continue to change. And as a matter of fact, in another few months you will probably be amazed about how fast these plants grow and turn… The plants just essentially got a haircut.

“Some of the trees just woke up and yawned and said, ‘What happened? Was there a fire here?’’ And some of the trees were not affected at all.”

He said that some of the animals and wildlife sought shelter from the fire and will return when the plants grow back.

The report brought applause from the audience.

Greaves said the foundation is currently working to find out how to replace the stage and will be announcing some fire fundraising projects to reconstruct the stage in the near future so that will be ready for use next year.

She said the foundation’s first Brewfest fundraiser held in Wildomar this summer was a success with a 10% to 15% profit being made for the nonprofit agency.

“It was an extraordinary event, considering it was the first year,” event manager Herb Massinger said.

He said the Brewfest will take place again this year with the city of Wildomar already voicing its approval with a $20,000 grant to help.

Greaves called up some of the first-time presenting sponsors of the event, including the Valley News, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Visit Temecula, Law Offices of Jeff Nickerson and Stone House Insurance.

Concert sponsors Barbara Bowers Realty, Team Victory Real Estate Investors, Bar-B-Clean, Jeffrey Nickerson Estate Planning, Electrical Work and the Glass Doctor were honored with certificates.

Presenting sponsors for the concerts and art shows were also honored along with other supporters of the foundation were called up and thanked for their efforts during the year.

Adding to the event was Lou Kashmere from Garage Brewing Company who invited the guests to come to his storefront at 29095 Old Town Front St. in Temecula on Tuesdays and Wednesdays where the brewpub and pizzeria will donate 25% of all the day’s proceeds to help reconstruct the SRPNEF’s stage destroyed in the Tenaja Fire. The fundraising efforts for the new stage will be posted on the foundation’s webpage at www.srpnef.org.

Greaves said that the stage reconstruction will take some time and many agencies will need to approve the final plans when they are created.

The nonprofit foundation’s mission is to educate and empower youth to appreciate, preserve and protect nature. It strives to reconnect a generation of youth to nature who have grown up indoors and isolated from nature that is done by sponsoring trips to the plateau for southwest Riverside County’s elementary schools.

The schedule for the rest of this year’s school trips will be determined by officials from the Riverside County Parks and Recreation District, Cal Fire and other agencies after assessing the Tenaja Fire’s damage. The plateau remains closed at this time while the assessment continues.

For the latest updates on the reserve, visit www.rivcoparks.org/santa-rosa-plateau-ecological-reserve.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.