County supervisors approve consultant to seek funding for river park


Forester Creek, one of the waterways of concern, passes by Parkway Plaza in El Cajon. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday voted 4-0 to spend up to $ 500,000 on a consultant who will seek funding to complete the 52-mile San Diego River Park.

Besides buying land, it also takes money to create trails.

The park stretches from the Cuyamaca to Julian Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Board chairman Nathan Fletcher, who offered to hire a consultant, said there has been a lot of enthusiasm for the park project, as part of the county’s ‘framework for the future’, which prioritizes previously marginalized communities.

“Let’s take a fresh look at the opportunities available to us,” including proper trail development, said Fletcher. County officials have not said how much the entire River Park project will cost.

Vice-president of the board of directors Nora Vargas was absent during the vote.

The San Diego River is the most populous watershed in the region and is home to over 500,000 residents.

The diverse watershed of the river park includes many animal species, including the arroyo toad and Least Bell’s Viero bird. According to the county, about 122,000 acres in the watershed remain underdeveloped, while 64,000 acres are open space or parks.

Last year, the San Diego River Conservancy unveiled a recreational trail plan, which revealed there were several gaps in trail alignment.

According to the county, the conservation also found “that there is a need for other activities such as protecting open spaces, improving habitat, public awareness and education to ensure that the San River Diego remains an ecological asset for generations to come ”.

One of the roles of conservation is to encourage county and nonprofit organizations to undertake projects as funding becomes available.

Supervisor Joel Anderson, a board member for the San Diego River Conservancy, said he wanted to make sure the new consultant would work on community outreach as well.

Anderson added that many business and real estate owners have donated money and time to the project, and “it would be foolish” to ignore them.

Fletcher later said the board’s decision on Wednesday “is an important step in providing more park and play space for families in San Diego by expanding community access to the San Diego trail system. River Park “.

“There is still a lot of work ahead of us, but I am very happy that in less than a year we have been able to make substantial progress in moving closer to the vision of San Diego River Park,” he added. .

In his state of the county address in February, Fletcher pointed to the creation of a task force – of which he is a member – with regional and tribal leaders to help complete the park, a project that began some time ago. 20 years.

Other members of the task force are Brian Albright, director, County Parks and Recreation Department; Raul Campillo, member of the San Diego City Council; Aimee Cox, Regional Homelessness Working Group; Johnny Eagle, from the Kumeyaay Diegueno Land Conservancy; Lisa Haws, from Kumeyaay Diegueno Land Conservancy; Rob Hutsel of the San Diego River Park Foundation; Julia Richards, from the San Diego River Conservancy; and Randy Wilde, political advisor to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

Hutsel, who called during a public comment period Wednesday, said exploring more funding options means more support for the San Diego River, which he called a “cultural treasure.”

Earlier this year, Fletcher and Anderson secured $ 6 million to restore Kumeyaay Valley County Park in the El Monte River Valley, which borders the San Diego River.

According to Fletcher’s office, the restoration of Kumeyaay Park will allow for future trail connections between existing county park facilities and the San Diego River Park Regional Trail, as well as channel trails to the east.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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