A popular walking trail in Santee is getting a makeover that includes the addition of thousands of native plants and trees.
Currently, 4,000 colorful flags line a nearly mile-long stretch of the Walker Preserve Trail on Magnolia Avenue.
Over the next few weeks, each one of those flags will be replaced by native plants and trees as part of a 2.5-acre enhancement project led by the city.
Each of the 20 flag colors represents a native plant, such as the San Diego Sunflower, California Sage Brush and Buckwheat. Fifteen native trees, including Sycamores, Cottonwoods and White Alders, will be planted to provide shade along the trail.
"With the overall goal being to improve the aesthetic of the trail experience as well as create, native habitat for the native wildlife," said Paul Walsh, Habitat Restoration Specialist with Dudek. "There's several sensitive bird species that occur in this area so it'll create additional habitat for those species as well."
The walking path, which opened to the public in April 2015, links Santee to Lakeside, and is part of the 52-mile trail that runs along the San Diego River.
It's widely used by walkers, runners and bicyclists on a daily basis, including Santee resident Madison Parkins. She's looking forward to the improvements along the path.
"I think that'll be different than a lot of other trails because most other trails just look plain," said Parkins, who walks the trail with her sister and mom. "I think it'll be really good for Santee."
All non-native invasive plants will be removed as part of the restoration, which will also improve the river's water quality, and help filter out trash.
"With the native planting, once that becomes established and provides cover, it'll be less erosion and sedimentation," explained Walsh.
The native plants will only need irrigated water for a couple of years and will then be able to thrive on local rainfall.
Workers with Habitat Restoration Sciences, Inc., began the trail improvements in January and expect to complete the planting process by early next month. It will take three to four years for the plants to provide 80 percent cover.
Restoration experts will monitor the habitat for five years to make sure the project is successful.
The improvements are being funded by a $256,665 grant from the San Diego River Conservancy.