ScrippsAssists Volunteers Work to Preserve Torrey Pines
By Jennifer OSullivan
Here I am Saturday morninglying in bed, sipping coffee,
perusing the Union-Tribunewhen I realize Ive
got just 20 minutes to get myself into a pair of hiking boots
and out to the Torrey Pines State Reserve where the ScrippsAssists
volunteers are scheduled to perform their monthly trail maintenance.
For the past seven years, ScrippsAssists, a volunteer club
consisting of members from The Scripps Research Institute
(TSRI), Green Hospital, and Scripps Clinic, has been working
under the supervision of rangers at the reserve with three
general goals in mind, goals which extend to all the group's
- To improve the quality of life for the people of San
- To demonstrate concern for the community reflective of
the three participating organizations' values, and
- To enhance employee morale by building a sense of teamwork
through volunteer service.
Admittedly, "community" and "teamwork"
are not words that come to mind as I creep and yawn my way
up to the rangers station this gray morning. Given the
sharp bite in the air (for San Diego, anyway), most of the
volunteers have congregated around a lit fireplace inside
the ranger's station. On the way in I meet Toni Tishon, scientific
associate in the Department of Neuropharmocology and coordinator
of the ScrippsAssists trail maintenance project. We are soon
joined by Ranger Adam Stahnke and his intern who lead us around
to a shed to collect shovels, wheelbarrows, gloves, and a
handy implement Ill later come to know as a MacLeod
(a giant hoe with teeth). Soil recovery is the task at hand,
a task which we will undertake alongside student volunteers
from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Outreach
We walk down to the head of the Guy Fleming trail, named
for the first president of the Torrey Pines Association (founded
in 1950). Like myself, the UCSD Outreach volunteers have never
worked on the reserve before, but the ScrippsAssists folks
get off to an impressive start, assessing trail erosion and
plotting strategies for water runoff. Fortunately, Adam gathers
us greenies for a quick lesson in general soil recovery. The
idea is to dig out loose soil from under shrubs lining the
trail and to use that soil to fill in gullies, thus creating
subtle slopes so that water wont pool on trails. This
practice, referred to as in-sloping and "out-sloping,"
is seen as a better alternative to creating dirt "speed bumps"
along the path.
The two essential reasons for soil recoverypreserving
the hiking trails and areas beyond and ensuring the safety
of those using the reservego hand-in-hand. Roots and
posts become exposed by weather and people treading by, and
begin to pose risks for those who follow. "Its a job
you wont ever finish," volunteer Kelly Dryden, a research
associate in the Yeager lab, tells me as we hoist a wheelbarrow
full of soil up and over an exposed wood beam serving as a
step foundation. We dump the soil just above the top of the
beam for the keeper of the MacLeod to flatten. Kelly has been
doing trail maintenance with ScrippsAssists for the past two
and a half years and has observed that erosion is mostly due
to water in the winter and foot-traffic in the summer, so
trail maintenance truly is a year-round job.
Whatever the season, visitors and volunteers alike are invigorated
by the ever-changing beauty of the reserve. As a passage from
the Torrey Pines Association website puts it: "as the seasons
change, the mood is revised and renewed."
It is an ongoing goal of the association to preserve and
protect the Torrey pines and their scenic refuge. Toward this
end, it issues the following challenge: can the rarest pine
tree in the United States continue to coexist with one of
the country's fastest growing cities? Judging from the high
number of visitors hiking, running, and cycling on the reserves
trails on a cold and rain-threatened February morning, Id
say this will be highly dependent upon the efforts of ScrippsAssists
and their committed counterparts.
A voice calls out from further up the trail, "walkers
coming!" We stop digging and lift our shovels upright.
Another group passes by and thanks us for the work were
doing. They move on. Soon I will too, my mood revised, renewed.
ScrippsAssists volunteers regularly
maintain the trails at the Torrey Pines State Reserve.
For more information on a variety of ScrippsAssists volunteer
opportunities, go to:
For more information on the Torrey Pines Association, go