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Pauma’s Own “Citizen Kane” Creates Preserve


Another one of Pauma’s beguiling attractions is Wilderness Gardens Preserve, the oldest open-space preserve in San Diego County. A scenic park that rests along the scenic San Luis Rey River watershed, the 720-acre area offers several miles of stunning and mostly flat hiking trails, bird watching, and all the calming joys of the Pauma Valley. Luiseño Indians once gathered acorns (a dietary staple) in the area, and you can still find acorn-grinding morteros in the rocks.

What you may not know is that the preserve was the brainchild of Los Angeles newspaperman Manchester Boddy. The Citizen Kane of Pauma Valley, if you will, Boddy rose from poverty to become the outspoken owner, publisher, and editor of the Los Angeles Daily News and candidate for Congress.

While Boddy was exposing prostitution and police corruption as a newspaper publisher, his rural escape from big-city crime and craziness was his lush parcel of land in Pauma Valley, which he bought in 1954.

A passionate horticulturist, Boddy planted thousands of shrubs and flowers. In 1973, he turned it over to the County of San Diego to be operated as an open-space preserve.

Wilderness Gardens is also home to Sickler’s Grist Mill, which was designated a historic landmark by the County of San Diego Historic Site Board in 2005. In the 1800s, the Sickler brothers operated the gristmill, the only one in the region. Farmers from the Pauma Valley and the surrounding area would bring wheat, barley, and corn to the mill, whose original foundation still stands.

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