By Karen Billing
The Del Mar Horsepark portion of the San Dieguito River Park’s Coast to Crest Trail opened on Jan. 12, completing a two-and-a-half-mile stretch of trail that begins at Jimmy Durante Boulevard. The new half-mile of trail is just one part of the planned 55-mile Coast to Crest trail from Del Mar to Julian and is open to walkers, bikers and equestrians.
“We’ve been working on it for a while and we were finally able to make the connection between the lagoon trail and this portion,” said Dante Lee, a San Dieguito River Park ranger. “It’s a fantastic view of the river and when the tide comes in you can see a lot of birds and ducks. This is one of the most interesting views of the river that you get on this side.”
The delay in getting the trail linkage was mostly permitting issues and having to coordinate with various agencies. Once all of that work was done, the river park was able to get to work over the last six months building the trail, installing fences and regulatory signs.
The project was funded by a State Environmental Enhancement Mitigation Program grant and was able to be completed thanks to cooperation by the 22nd District Agricultural Association and Del Mar Horsepark, which allowed the trail to be placed alongside the property despite the impacts to its operations.
The trail begins just past the Horsepark entrance on El Camino Real and traverses past the San Dieguito Lagoon restoration project on the Salt Marsh Bird Trail and Lagoon Trail and over the Boardwalk Trail to Jimmy Durante.
Mile markers are installed at every half-mile and there are benches and picnic tables along the new route, placed by local Boy Scouts.
There are three bridges on the new portion of the trail, built using reclaimed wood from other parts of the river park that were burned during the Witch Creek fire. The bridges were salvaged and kept until they could be used in another area of the park.
Lee said another one of their challenges in the area was invasive plant management and in completing the trail they also did an invasive eucalyptus tree removal. Lee said they want more riparian plants in the area like mule fat, willows and oaks — volunteers helped to remove invasive species, do replanting work as well as help build the trail.
“The river park relies heavily on volunteers, they call themselves the Dust Devils and they really help out the rangers,” said Lee. “There’s only seven rangers, a very small staff, so to do all this work we really rely on these volunteers.”
At the end of the Horsepark portion of the trail is a sign that reads that the Coast to Crest trail stops at that point and, for now, the river park’s work in the area is complete.
River park personnel are awaiting the process to widen El Camino Real because when that expansion goes through they will lobby to have an undercrossing under the new El Camino Real bridge to continue the Coast to Crest to the trial alongside the polo field.
“That’s our best goal,” Lee said.
The Lagoon Trail portion of the Coast to Crest Trail also has a self-guided interpretive walk that begins at the entry monument on Jimmy Durante. Trail users can scan QR codes on placed interactive signs with their smart phones to listen or read content about the area. The app also contains park information, plant and animal identification tools and trail maps. Funding for the program was provided by grants from SDG&E and REI. To learn more, visit www.sdrp.org.