By Suzanne Evans
Hundreds of canyons all over the city are prime for dedication as parkland open space, Eric Bowlby, executive director of the nonprofit San Diego Canyonlands organization, told the Del Mar Mesa planning board Nov. 10. Bowlby urged the board to participate in a countywide canyon lands public review process and add their choice of Del Mar Mesa lands to be dedicated as open space.
“Adhering to its community plan, the city can preserve canyon lands by dedicating them as open space,” Bowlby said. Funding is through the San Diego Foundation, run by Canyonlands and state grants.
Canyonlands organization in San Diego includes planning professionals, landscape architects and other urban planning visionaries committed to blending the county’s natural open spaces with the urban environment. Among the organization’s goals are canyon access, restoration, preservation, and providing “ecologically sensitive recreation within communities.”
Nearly 75 percent of Del Mar Mesa is already designated (as opposed to dedicated) Multiple Habitat Protection Area (MHPA), having core habitat value to the Multiple Species Conservation Plan. In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat for the San Diego fairy shrimp under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Flowering California wild lilac, fairy shrimp in vernal pools, black-tailed jackrabbits, horned lizards, Southern Maritime Chaparral, deer, bobcats and, every few years, a mountain lion or two are only some of the fragile, endangered species that flourish in the Del Mar Mesa critical habitat.
Dedication itself does not result in any changes or additional cost in maintenance to the city. Lands that are dedicated and preserved as natural open space would require a two-thirds approval of San Diego voters to override dedication and be converted for non-park uses. Land that is merely “designated” as open space can be converted, transferred or sold with five votes of the City Council. Dedicated lands are preserved as natural open space or developed for active outdoor recreation.
“There are only 2,000 to 3,000 acres of critical habitat left in the world,” board member and Del Mar Mesa trails committee member Lisa Ross previously said of preserves in Deer Canyon and Del Mar Mesa.
“We have until December 2012, but the target date for public input on lands the public wants to dedicate is August 2012,” Bowlby said. He hoped the Del Mar Mesa Planning board would at least decide now that the idea of dedicating canyon lands is important enough to proceed. After the public vetting process, City Council can approve parcels for dedicated open space. City Council retains the authority to grant easements for utility purposes across dedicated property, including roads, sewer lines, drainage channels etc.
“It is better to put our Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) lands into dedication,” Ross said, urging a board subcommittee meet soon to consider and target which Del Mar Mesa lands they want to dedicate.
The board unanimously approved a motion to support the Canyonlands organization and the effort they are making for the community, and asked for a detailed review in subcommittee.
to see proposed dedication areas.