Elfin Forest Interpretive Center

This is the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center which I'm posting separately here on a page as I want to explore and delve into chaparral Elfin Forest habitats more fully. Exterior with planters, carved columns, mosaic, and outdoor patio. The organization below along with other are great resources for which to gain your own ideas, along with your own personal observations of chaparral communities and creating your own little native hideaway environment in your small or large spaces in your back or front yards.
Here's their website:
The Escondido Creek Conservancy

 Enjoy the highlights from the site & Photo Gallery!

The project team, led by architect Drew Hubbell and artist James Hubbell, designed this unique Interpretive Center to appear to grow out of the site and create a connection to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. With a requirement of building within the footprint of an existing 1,000 sq ft  display structure in the Reserve parking area, the off-grid project also needed to be fire-, flood-, vandal-resistant.
Green and artistic design features include:
  • Walls constructed of reinforced Perform Wall—highly-insulated polystyrene and concrete forms made of 85% post-consumer recycled content. The panels are filled with concrete, adding even more insulation and durability for this fire- and flood-prone site.
  • A living roof and raised planters surrounding the outside walls helps the Center blend into the site, and provides additional insulation.
  • Water run-off from the living roof helps irrigate the surrounding planters, reusing and reducing water consumption.
  • Photovoltaic panels to provide all energy for this off-grid building.
  • Heating and air-conditioning systems were omitted in favor of natural and passive systems. The roof is vaulted to the south, assisting in natural daylighting and passive heating and cooling. Slot windows in rear wall and an operable skylight help provide natural ventilation.
  • Art elements include a ceiling mural of the four seasons along the river, mosaic tile inlaid in the floor representing how the Escondido Creek runs into the Pacific, and cast concrete columns with sculptural details.
A joint effort between the Olivenhain Municipal Water District and the Escondido Creek Conservancy, this “jewel on Escondido Creek” provides ranger staff presence, environmental education about the unique native plants and wildlife that inhabit the preserve, and offers a pleasant meeting place at the entrance to the recreational hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. For more information, please visit the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty on weekend days. Schedules and docent volunteer applications are are available on the OMWD website www.olivenhain.com. Learn more about the Escondido Creek Conservancy’s efforts to preserve, restore and protect the natural open space within the Escondido Creek watershed at www.escondidocreek.org.

Green Living Roof

 Some of my favorite things about this building is the artwork they shared on the inside.


Education is a huge part of any organization wanting to get their message across to folks who have no understanding of a plant community such as chaparral. Once enrolled, a deeper appreciation is instilled into the minds and hearts of those who attended any of the short interpretive lectures. This translates into deeper and admiration respect for the outdoors and a more personal conscious effort to bring California native plants into the landscape which to many folk's surprise will attract birds and insects not commonly associated with an urban landscape setting.
 Escondido Creek - Northern San Diego County California

And believe it or not that part of the creek has to travel through the city of Escondido before it makes it's way to the Pacific Ocean. Sadly during most storms the downstream endures some tremendous runoff which almost never happened before in such great volumes as nature would have allowed most upstream water to percolate into the ground water table to be slowly released throughout the rest of the year. The other big problem which sadly will never be cured is all the chemical crap and other junk and trash humans throw out which is washed down storm drains. Here is the concrete channel portion of the creek that runs through the city.

The true main focus here is not necessarily the Escondido Creek, which certainly is important, but also the areas of Harmony Grove, Elfin forest and Olivenhain, which I must say when I first found them back in the late 1970s was quite by accident. I always loved off the beaten path roads and this one was a dirt bumpy one. Got to it by way of the city of Escondido CA, and had no clue where the road would come out of. Back then it was pristine and beautiful, but chaparral brush fires have always been a curse sinse that first encounter.
Elfin Forest/Harmony Grove Fire Depatment

A big part of this area is not so much the creek which certainly is beautiful and for obvious reasons a big draw, but it's the chaparral community for which 10s of 1000s of acreage surrounds the creek.  I dare say that though there may be pockets of old growth chaparral, the majority is unfortunately gone. But the habitat does offer southern Californians observable benefits and ideas on the home landscaping front. But it eventually grows back, but for how long and in what condition?

Other important resources links to the surrounding area.

Hubblell & Hubblell Architects: Sustainable Design and Artistic Details
Olivenhain Municipal Water District



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