Tourism includes travel for leisure, recreational, educational, or business purposes. Tourists are people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year.” In 2012 global tourism surpassed 1 billion visits for the first time in history, representing more than US$1 trillion in the global economy.  Tourism is increasing faster than the annual rate of inflation.  In 2012, China surpassed Germany and the United States in total tourist dollars spent, becoming the largest international spender. Tourism is an integrating component of the social, economic, educational and environmental features of Borrego Springs, and thus is a defining feature guiding our visioning and planning for our community’s future.

This Charter was drafted during the summer of 2014 in a series of biweekly video conference calls. Participants volunteered their time and energies. They included: Ann Bogardt (BSUSD), Lyle Brecht (BWD), Emily Brooks (UCI), Martha Deichler (BSUSD), David Garmon (TCDC & Co-Chair), Linda Haddock (BSCOC), Travis Huxman (UCI & Co-Chair), Betsy Knaak (ABDNHA), Bill Lawrence (Borrego Modern), Carolina Magdaleno (Youth Representative/BSHS), Mike McElhatton (ABDNHA), Salma Meza (Youth Representative/BSHS), Paige Rogowski (ABF), Jonathan Tourtellot (former National Geographic Society & Co-Chair), Jim Wermers (BAI), and Dan Wright (BSCOC). The Charter was ratified at a signing ceremony at the UCI/Steele-Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center on November 6, 2014.

The Borrego Springs Stewardship Council focuses on the concept of Geotourism – tourism that sustains or enhances the character of a place – its culture, environment, heritage, and the well-being of its resources and residents.
We are guided by an ethic of stewardship that embodies responsible planning and management of our community resources, including health, culture economics, environmental sustainability, property, theology, information, or any other valuable community asset.
We apply the concept of sustainability, which we take to be the development and use of resources so as to avoid causing unacceptable economic, environmental, or social consequences to our community.




The community of Borrego Springs, California is the primary gateway for visitors to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP, the Park), which surrounds the community on all sides. ABDSP, a National Natural Landmark and International Biosphere, is the largest desert State Park in the nation (635,000 acres) and one of the largest protected areas in the west.  It recently achieved distinction as a part of the University of California Natural Reserve System. Borrego Springs is located about 90 miles from San Diego, California’s 2nd largest city and drives national and international visitation exceeding ~ 500,000 tourists each year. Visitors to the ABDSP account for over $40 million in annual revenue to the region. Borrego Springs encompasses a thriving community with 3,400 permanent residents, 5,000 seasonal residents, six golf courses, 11 lodging establishments, a university research center, two airports, five electric vehicle-charging stations, and a community medical center. Borrego Springs is California’s first International Dark Sky Community, home to numerous art, architecture, music, environment, sport, and recreation events and experiences annually, an amazing biodiversity hotspot with an incredible sense of place, and a gateway to the abundant natural must-see features of southern California.

WHEREAS, the community of Borrego Springs has a diversity of active, effective, and engaged volunteer organizations, State, Federal and County agencies, along with a thriving local business community, fragmented governance constrains collective action and visioning,

WHEREAS, there is a need for a council to link community organizations, focus resources, prioritize activities, engage publics, orient the community toward a sustainable future, define attainable goals, and identify policies of government agencies that foster effective stewarding of Borrego Springs as a sustainable destination for tourists,

WHEREAS, geotourism is an all-inclusive approach to planning that focuses not only on the environment and economics, but also on the wealth of Borrego Springs’ collective assets, including its position as a gateway to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park,

WHEREAS, the geotourism approach encourages citizens and visitors to take an active role in the activities and policies and activities that support sustainable development, and

WHEREAS, the geotourism approach helps build a sense of place, community identity and pride, stressing the authentic and unique attributes of Borrego Springs,

THE UNDERSIGNED parties to this Geotourism Charter commit to support these general principles that aim to promote, sustain and enhance the geographical character of Borrego Springs—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents and visitors such as:

I.       Integrity of place: Enhance the geographical character of Borrego Springs by developing and improving it in ways distinctive to the locale, reflective of its natural and cultural heritage, so as to encourage market differentiation as a tourist destination and inspire cultural pride that broadly impacts the many facets of the community.

II.      International focus: Recognize the role that international tourism represents in the travel economy, and thus leverage the principles embodied in many international codes, councils, and charters on conservation, preservation, and planning in order to vision, market, and manage the assets unique to Borrego Springs. 

III.     Market selectivity: Encourage growth in tourism market segments most likely to appreciate, respect, and disseminate positive information about the distinctive assets of Borrego Springs, the ABDSP, and their unique setting in the western U.S.

IV.     Market diversity: Encourage a full range of appropriate food and lodging facilities, so as to appeal to the entire demographic spectrum of the geotourism market, to maximize economic resiliency, and to support year-around economic development over both the short and long term.

V.      Tourist satisfaction: Ensure that satisfied, excited geotourists bring new positive vacation stories home and send friends off to engage “the Borrego Springs experience,” thus ensuring continuing and growing tourist demand for Borrego Springs as a fun sustainable destination to visit again and again for longer periods each year.

VI.     Community involvement: Base tourism on community resources to the extent possible, encouraging local small businesses and civic groups to build collaborative partnerships to promote and provide a distinctive, authentic visitor experience. Help local businesses develop approaches to tourism that build on the area’s nature, history and culture, including food and drink, artisanry, performance arts, etc.

VII.    Community benefit and satisfaction: Encourage micro-to medium-size enterprises and tourism business strategies that emphasize economic and social benefits broadly to Borrego Springs, especially job creation, with clear communication of the destination stewardship policies required to maintain those benefits.

VIII.   Protection and enhancement of destination appeal: Encourage businesses to sustain natural habitats, heritage sites, aesthetic appeal, and local culture. Seek profitable and sustainable business models that enhance Borrego Springs. Use persuasion, incentives, and regulatory enforcement by San Diego County, the Borrego Water District and State/Federal regulators, as needed.

IX.     Land use: Encourage development that retains a diversity of natural and scenic environments and ensures continued resident and visitor access to the natural desert environment of the Park.

X.      Conservation of resources: Encourage businesses to focus on smart water and energy consumption, progressive solid waste and water treatment strategies, and minimize landscaping impacts and nighttime environment impacts. Advertise these measures in a way that attracts the large, environmentally sympathetic tourist market.

XI.     Planning: Effectively communicate, vision, and plan as a community to appropriately recognize and respect immediate economic needs without sacrificing long-term character and the geotourism potential of Borrego Springs as a sustainable destination. Strive to diversify the economy so as to enhance the special ambiance and culture that attracts residents and visitors to Borrego Springs.

XII.    Interactive interpretation: Engage visitors and residents in learning about the place. Encourage residents to show off their natural and cultural heritage, so that tourists gain a richer experience and residents develop pride in their locales.

XIII.  Evaluation: Establish an evaluation process to be conducted on a regular basis by an independent panel representing all stakeholder interests, and publicize evaluation results so as to guide the Stewardship Council in the successful execution of its mission.