The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority is hoping to build a lagoon nature center on the almost completely restored river valley wetlands.
It's a natural resource shared by Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Carmel Valley and Solana Beach, and the authority board members say they want as many people as possible to get involved in the center project, starting with a design workshop this weekend.
The three-day design open house runs today through Sunday at the lagoon construction trailers on Via de la Valle and San Andres Drive.
"This workshop is a real opportunity for the community," said Susan Carter, deputy director of the authority. "We want to make sure people have the chance to participate."
By the end of the weekend, the board hopes to have a preferred design for the center that will be situated where the trailers and historic strawberry stand are now.
Carter said the strawberry stand will probably not remain but they plan to use the painted plexiglass panels from the stand in the new facility.
So far the input has been very interesting - Carter said. Some want a very active educational facility while others want something very simple and meditative to enjoy the views.
"Our architects and planners can hear those messages and come up with something that provides people what they're looking for," Carter said.
The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, the JPA's partner organization, received a $60,000 grant from the Sempra Foundation to develop a concept for the nature center. The money only carries the project through the design phase, which should be completed in October. Then they will have to apply for additional grant monies and kick off a capital campaign to raise funds.
After the grant was given in February, the board invited architects to apply and got lots of interest, Carter said they received at least 26 different proposals. They narrowed it down to Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects, Spurlock-Poirer Landscape Architects and interpretive planners The Acorn Group.
Interpretive planners are important, Carter said, as they work out what kind of identity this nature center will have.
"There are a lot of lagoon nature centers and we don't want to duplicate their messages," Carter said. "We want to talk about what's unique about San Dieguito."
Carter said the 150-acre lagoon restoration is nearly complete - the west side of the freeway has become a deep lagoon; the Via de la Valle side is the mudflats, which aims to be a popular spot for shore birds. Work left to do includes some re-vegetation plantings and some excavation at the inlet by the river's mouth.
The river valley's Coast to Crest Trail has two miles of trails completed that start on boardwalk planks in the lagoon in Del Mar. The trail goes under the freeway and stops right now at the foot of San Andreas. The river park has a challenge in getting the trail through the horsepark, but the trail is expected to continue alongside the polo fields, Morgan Run Resort and around Rancho Santa Fe.