The city of Santee and the San Diego River Conservancy honored members of the Walker family at a ceremony Dec. 11 to dedicate a portion of the family’s former estate as the Walker Preserve.The River Conservancy spearheaded the purchase of the 107-acre property, which has been given to the city of Santee to fill a crucial gap in the San Diego River Trail.
Santee envisions developing a multi-use trail with interpretive signs and other public amenities along the riverfront parcel, which stretches from Magnolia Avenue to the city’s eastern boundary near the Lakeside Baseball Park.The riverfront parcel was purchased for its appraised market value of $2,140,000 with grants from the State Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the State Wildlife Conservation Board. The property was targeted for conservation by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service because it contains high-quality habitat that supports at least three federally-protected bird species: the Southwestern willow flycatcher, the California gnatcatcher, and the least Bell’s vireo.
The property was part of a 350-acre dairy farm the Walker family established on the south side of the river when the family arrived in Santee in 1926. The family played a prominent role in Santee’s early history, and the dairy remained in operation until 1971.Walker family members attending the ceremony, which marked the property’s transition from private to public ownership, included: (from left) Bill Hanlon, Marla Walker Nichols, Dan Walker, Darby Walker, Rick Walker, Sam Walker and (front row) Donald Mortimer Walker Jr.