It took 40 years to lay out the welcome mat, but the west side of Fletcher Hills finally has a spruced-up median at the intersection of Valley Lake and Fanita drives. The Valley Lake Median Beautification Project was a collaboration between the Fletcher Hills Highlands Association and El Cajon City Council.
Formerly a blank slab of asphalt, the approximately 324-foot median will now bloom with native trees and plants, and includes a four-ton granite block sign.
Homeowners Karen Torrance and Judith Toepel got the ball rolling a few years ago when they approached the Public Works Department. They were turned down due to limited budget. Torrance wrote letters to all five city council members and then got a call saying “the city manager wants to approve the project and push it forward,” she said.
Torrance made a presentation to the councilmembers and they took $17,000 from the general fund to help with the cost of a new water meter in October 2014. The homeowners’ association put up the rest of the $66,000 cost.
The job began last December with the contractor tearing out the asphalt. In March of this year, the contractor began installing a root barrier, a solar-powered irrigation system, and a bioswale to capture rainwater.
The landscape design was done by Greg Rubin, author of The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner’s Design Guide to Restoring Its Beauty and Balance. He chose drought-resistant natives including three types of manzanita (Franciscan, John Dourley, and sunset), small Engelmann oaks, desert willows, and Cleveland sage. The sage, manzanita, and willows will have purple and pink flowers. The plants have been mulched with redwood bark.
Although the landscape cost is listed as almost $39,000, Torrance explained that figure includes the design, labor, cost of water meter not covered by El Cajon (meter $20,700 total), and everything else except the sign ($6350). The rest of the $66,000 cost came from the homeowners’ association’s general fund. The association will also pay to maintain and irrigate the median.
The pièce de résistance is the four-ton granite slab, for which Toepel and Torrance went shopping at a stone yard.
“I looked at one the size of a Volkswagen,” Torrance said, but it was too big to easily transport. The selected smaller rough-back slab was trucked in via flatbed and hoisted into place using a crane. Industrial artist and designer Tim Spann fabricated and installed it. Torrance and Toepel chose the “Fletcher Hills Highlands” letter font.
The homeowners’ association presented a certificate of appreciation to El Cajon City Council on July 28.
Fletcher Hills is an area of El Cajon/La Mesa developed by Ed Fletcher, who with a partner also developed Grossmont, Mt. Helix, and Del Mar in the early 1900s. He donated the land upon which the Mt. Helix cross sits. He was instrumental in the creation of Lake Hodges and completed many road projects as well. Fletcher served in the California state senate from 1934–1947.
(revised 8/18, 10 a.m.)