Marblehead Coastal Preserve

Marblehead Coastal Preserve

Area: Approximately 100 acres

 Location: San Clemente, Orange County, CA

Date Acquired: 2006

Acquisition Type: CNLM holds a conservation easement as well as a long-term agreement to protect the imperiled species and their habitats on the preserve. The preserve is owned by third party.

Key Habitats: Coastal Scrub and Freshwater Aquatic/Wetland

Species of Special Interest to CNLM: Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), Coulter’s saltbush (Atriplex coulteri) and Blochman’s dudleya (Dudleya blochmaniae)


The Marblehead Coastal Preserve is a 100-acre conservation area set aside as mitigation for impacts to natural habitat as part of the Marblehead Coastal development within the City of San Clemente, Orange County, California. Approximately 91.84 acres of the Preserve are within the Coastal Zone. The limits of the Preserve have been approved by the California Coastal Commission (CCC), Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with the primary goal of protecting habitat of the federally threatened Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), Blochman’s dudleya (Dudleya blochmaniae), and other wildlife species found in coastal sage scrub, riparian, wetland and native grassland habitat.

The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) accepted management responsibility for the Preserve in 2006 through a Management and Funding Agreement. However, CNLM’s management of the Preserve does not begin until the landowner/developer completes a five-year construction/restoration sequence, and following determination by USFWS, CDFG, CCC (for those areas in the coastal zone), and ACOE (for wetland restoration areas) that the restoration has successfully met the terms of the respective permits.

To further protect the conservation values on the Preserve, and to provide for third-party beneficiaries, a conservation easement in favor of CNLM was conveyed for the Preserve in 2006.  An endowment was established to  provide the financial resources needed for both the initial conservation easement compliance monitoring as well as the long-term management of the Preserve.

Conservation Significance

The Marblehead Coastal Preserve provides one of the last few areas of natural habitat along the coastline.  The following native habitat types exist within the 100-acre Preserve: coastal sage scrub, coastal bluff scrub, native grassland, and wetland/riparian habitats (including drainage basins, alkali meadow, and emergent marsh).  These vegetation types provide important habitats to federally listed animal species and rare plant species.  These species include the federally-listed threatened Coastal California gnatcatcher, the California Native Plant Society seriously endangered Blochman’s dudleya, and the California Native Plant Society fairly endangered Coulter’s saltbush (Atriplex coulteri).

Our Work

CNLM’s primary goal is to monitor the conservation easement to ensure the conservation values for which it was set aside are not degraded.  We are currently developing a management plan to guide management of the Preserve when CNLM takes over as the long-term steward of the property.  This will not occur until the permitting agencies declare the mitigation/restoration activities successful and complete.

Public Access

There are approximately four miles of trails throughout the Preserve that are open hiking and on-leash dog walking, with portions that are ADA accessible and open to biking.  The City of San Clemente is working to one day connect this trail system farther south to San Clemente State Park.  The site illustrates the balance of development with habitat preservation, as the trail system on the Preserve was created to provide a sustainable recreation place for visitors and residents alike, while allowing the movement of native animals across the Preserve.  For example, the trail material is built of decomposed granite that allows for percolation of rainwater and is somewhat weed resistant.  Also, the trail fencing is wildlife friendly and allows rabbits and coyotes, for example, to run from one area to another, while keeping the Preserve and the sensitive species within it protected from trampling or interference by the public.  The trail system provides incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, where you can see pelicans and seabirds diving year round and whales migrating during the winter months.  Looking north from the trail system, you can see the CNLM Dana Point Headlands Preserve, where there is also a public trail—for walking only.


For information about Marblehead Coastal Preserve or Center for Natural Lands Management, please contact Korie Merrill, Preserve Manager at or 760.731.7790 extension 204.