What we do: Persevere for preservation

By Dick Bobertz

Executive Director, San Dieguito River Park

Natural habitat preservation is what we do. Conservation and restoration of natural habitat in the San Dieguito River Valley is our primary objective and other tasks such as trail construction, interpretation, and public outreach, notwithstanding their importance, are secondary. This concept becomes increasingly important as budgetary constraints limit our resources.

It is now very obvious that the economy will not provide "normal" revenues for government services for some time. The River Park operating budget is primarily provided by its member agencies; the cities of San Diego, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Poway, Escondido and the County of San Diego. Each of these agencies has been struggling with the ongoing economic downturn that has greatly diminished tax revenue. As a consequence, the River Park absorbed a 14 percent decrease in its operating budget this year. This is where the perseverance comes in.

How do we hold the organization together and continue to make progress on our primary objective?

This year we were able to absorb the 14 percent budget decrease by shifting ranger staff to revenue-generating activities, which, fortunately, coincide with natural habitat preservation. The River Park has established itself as the "go to" agency in the San Dieguito River Valley for management of habitat mitigation projects. Developers of private and public projects that diminish natural habitat areas are required to preserve or restore similar areas beyond their project sites and provide endowments to generate revenue for perpetual management.

The San Dieguito Lagoon Wetland Restoration Project is an example. Southern California Edison was required to restore 150 acres of tidally flushed wetland and provide for its long-term maintenance. This year one and one half years of ranger time is being provided by our River Park rangers for that project which shifts funding of their salaries from our member agencies to Southern California Edison.

It is important to recognize that, under normal budget conditions, we would have hired new rangers to meet this demand so we are effectively reducing ranger time for the rest of the River Park. The strategy is to "persevere" with existing staff until the economy improves to the point that we can restore staff levels to meet needs throughout the River Park.

With ranger staff diverted to the lagoon project and other similar revenue producing projects coming on-line this and next year it is obvious that tasks necessary to maintain trails and other areas of the River Park will be very difficult to get accomplished.

In order to meet that need the River Park is initiating an "Adopt a Trail" program that we hope will result in formation of volunteer groups that live near and use River Park Trails to help maintain those neighborhood trails. Those groups will receive initial training and then be expected to be self sufficient and self perpetuating. Several volunteer groups have already been formed and are working out well.

Look for information distributed in your neighborhood (or e-mail) and volunteer to help the San Dieguito River Park "persevere for preservation" of your natural habitat.

For more information, go to

sdrp.org

or call 674-2270.

   
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