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Almost a decade after fires devastated Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, State Park officials will launch a series of public gatherings aimed at crafting a new long-range plan for the 24,700-acre park, long seen as one of San Diego County’s most popular and scenic expanses of backcountry.

Nedra Martinez, superintendent of the Palomar and Cuyamaca Rancho state parks, said the lingering fallout from the 2003 Cedar fire is forcing officials to rethink issues related to public access and preservation.

“The ’03 fire really changed who we are,” she said. “It has in some cases broadened what we can do and in some cases narrowed it.”

Park officials plan this fall to host the first of three public workshops on the future of Cuyamaca Rancho as they put together a draft general plan that would replace the long-range document approved in 1986. The initial workshop will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 3 in the main showroom at the Viejas Casino, 5000 Willows Rd.,in Alpine.

Items to be discussed will include:

Park facilities. The Cedar fire damaged or destroyed numerous facilities, including the Dyar House visitor center and the Los Caballos family and equestrian campground. Officials want to figure out, with public input, whether to relocate these facilities and, if so, where.

Cultural sites. Martinez said the blaze uncovered more archeological and historical sites than previously documented at Cuyamaca. Because those cultural resources must be protected, it limits what can be done with the land, she said.

Trail system. The fire remade the park’s vegetation and vistas, and has spurred talk about whether some trails within the 100-mile system should be realigned to better fit the changed landscape.

Martinez said the issue of day-use fees and campground fees will not be part of the general plan overhaul. “We have not had any discussions about raising or lowering fees,” she said.

Park officials plan to release a draft environmental impact report related to the new plan by early 2014 and hope to have the plan in place by the end of that year. At least two additional public workshops will be held.

State officials have budgeted $420,000 to complete the document.

The park, roughly 40 miles east of San Diego, includes Cuyamaca Reservoir, Stonewall Peak, Three Sisters waterfalls and the Green Valley and Paso Picacho campgrounds. In 2010, the park had 406,000 visitors in 2010, Martinez said. 2011 figures were unavailable.

In the year before the Cedar fire, the park reported 647,000 visitors.

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