Del Mar fair board hears solutions for reopening Coast to Crest Trail segment

The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority presented potential solutions to reopen a portion of the Coast to Crest Trail during the Oct. 11 meeting of the board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Following a January 2016 storm, bank erosion severed approximately 75 feet of the Coast to Crest Trail along the San Dieguito River at Del Mar Horsepark, west of El Camino Real Bridge. The segment helped complete about 45 miles of the planned 70 miles of the Coast to Crest Trail, which would extend from the ocean at Del Mar to the San Dieguito River’s source on Volcan Mountain near Julian.

“Unfortunately, when we have instances like this, we take a few steps back,” said Kevin McKernan, executive director of San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority, the agency responsible for creating natural open space park in the San Dieguito River Valley.

Committed to ensuring the connectivity and sustainability of the Coast to Crest Trail, the JPA spent $5,000 to commission an initial study of bank stabilization alternatives that could meet the Coastal Commission’s permit conditions. The study, which was shared with 22nd DAA and Coastal Commission staff, evaluated site conditions and presented conceptual solutions

“It’s not a full comprehensive study, but it does look at where the bank was and how it’s receded over time,” McKernan said. “It looks at the permit condition language and it tries to come up with a softer approach.”

The project site is covered by a Coastal Development Permit, issued by the California Coastal Commission for the construction of the San Dieguito River Park’s Coast to Crest Trail extension through the Horsepark segment of the river valley. According to the report, the permit included special conditions that do not allow channelization or substantial alternation of a river or stream “to protect the development from flooding or erosion of the riverbank.”

The study included three different bank stabilization scenarios that the consultants believe fall within the limitations of the commission’s permit. Costs range from $138,000 to $354,000.

The JPA further researched options for stabilizing the bank and crossing the bridge, which McKernan said is the most expensive portion of the project. Staff explored two alternatives, including using a railroad flatcar and a pre-fab pedestrian bridge.

Railroad flatcars, McKernan said, come in fixed lengths and are more expensive. A pre-fab bridge, however, is less expensive and longer, and could safely span the gap. He added that the JPA needs to onbtain a new permit and funding.

“Our priority is really getting the trail back connected,” McKernan said. “We get questions daily about it. A lot of people are interested in having a connection.”

With board president Russ Penniman and board member David Watson absent, the board decided to discuss the matter at a later date.