by Dan Weisman
Bheau View Ranch is making news as North County’s classiest private wedding venue.
An oasis in the midst of ever-burgeoning development, Bheau View Ranch has protected and enhanced the land and local health for more than a decade at the corner of Cox Road and what may yet come.
Now, Bheau View Ranch and its gardens are starting a new life as a private wedding and party venue. The venue is a ranch on a 10-acre knoll offering breathtaking panoramic views of surrounding mountains. A 2-bedroom, 3-bath ranch style house also is available for private wedding parties.
A wonderful summer microclimate featuring ocean breezes keeps guests comfortable. The ranch is centrally located with easy access from Highway 78 and interstate 5. It’s just off Twin Oaks Valley Road by a golf course and regional park. Yet it’s secluded and private, an unique and peaceful setting.
Ample parking is available. The grounds feature a wide array of beautiful plants and native California trees.
For centuries, the high ground at the beginning of the Twin Oaks Valley sat quiet and unbothered. Twin Oaks founder Maj. Gustavus Merriam and family settled there following his Civil War command in Kansas. This paved the way for the eventual development of San Marcos and inland North County San Diego.
Bheau View Ranch was an unnamed pile of overgrown weeds and junk for years. Enter Shera Sandwell and the Awe Center Foundation, as it is now configured, taking over a dilapidated property with a few crumbling structures, empty fields and a future looking not much better than its immediate past. Sandwell didn’t have much more than a vision and a prayer of turning those 10 acres of nothingness into something more substantial than even a luxury home or upscale housing tract.
“When I first came over here the whole area was overgrown with weeds,” Sandwell said. “The whole place was really, really run down. So, we power-washed and started fencing. Now we have paint, quarter, thoroughbred, Arabian horses. The city of San Marcos has all those equestrian trails and Walnut Grove Equestrian Park. We have easy access to all that and want to help the community utilize the trails and park.”
The main house, an aging hacienda, was a work in progress for several years with Sandwell sleeping in a tent or a trailer. She built a new office and stables while renovating an on-site barn, later also renovating a ranch guest house in back.
Resisting increasing pressure from local power brokers and high-powered real estate interests to sell the land to developers for a fast buck, Sandwell, and company, sought a higher purpose. In order to pay the $10,000 monthly mortgage at the valuable property, she boarded horses, gave riding lessons, camps and educational programs.
Sandwell added a menagerie of animals like goats, hogs, chickens and birds. She added picnic tables under the trees, porches and a small swimming pool for kids. Today, the ranch features acres of pastures, vegetable gardens and a host of landscaping features and amenities. It also features a thriving educational component.
High school and pre-college students said they loved doing intern work at the ranch. Other community members sometimes volunteer to help as well.
“A friend’s 15-year-old loved Shera’s horse riding lessons,” Nancy Weaver said. “They are unlike any she’s ever had. She became one with the horse in the very first lesson. Many of the boys and girls who come there for summer day camp say that this place feels like a real home. They love learning how to care for the horses and ponies. Children of different ages and abilities discover the value in supporting one another.”
Sandwell helped plan nearby Walnut Grove Park validating the entire area as a regional recreational draw. She was vice chairman of the San Marcos Trail Advisory Committee establishing hiking, biking and equestrian trails part of the 72-mile master trail plan. The ranch has become a popular landmark venue in that scenario.
“It is such a privilege to be able to experience the beauty, tranquility and serenity of Bheau View Ranch,” said Judy Hedges. “Truly a miraculous experience.”
Said Paul Schuman, a local realtor: “Most residents would like the preservation of Bheau View Ranch as it is a part of our rural rots in the city of San Marcos”.
From Here To There
Sandwell developed a knack for working with horses growing up in Southern Illinois near St. Louis. She spent a lot of time at her uncle’s 65-acre pasture. Her uncle took in horses considered untrainable by their owners. Sandwell started working with the difficult horses developing an affinity for training them. She says it’s important to make a connection with the animal before getting on the animal’s back.
“Every person is different,” Sandwell said. “Every child is different,.Every horse is different. You need to “become the lead mare in the herd so that the horse will trust them.”
Now, more than a decade after first settling the ranch, it has become a community resource with a strong foundation building towards a brighter future, if the ranch can be saved and the center expanded despite development and temporal pressures. Efforts continue to raise funding and put on new health and wellness programs to serve the community while preserving its old way of life. Planning is under way yo expand the water hole and add amenities, programs and services.
“I’ve been coming to Bheau View Ranch since it was conceived,” said Lynn Borst. “I have thankfully used all aspects of this amazing place. I recommended it to many with successful results and feedback. I will gratefully continue to be a part of the Bheau View Ranch family.”
Said Tiffiny Myres: “For as long as I can remember, Bheau View Ranch has been heaven on earth to humans, horses and many other creatures.”