Del Mar residents, including Mayor Sherryl Parks, are fighting back against the recent crackdown on people crossing the railroad tracks through the coastal corridor.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, Parks invited community members to “Take Back the Tracks” during a train-free day on the bluffs at Powerhouse Park.
“It’s still illegal,” Parks said. “The possibility of getting a ticket is still there, so the burden is always on the pedestrian. But we have lots of people that are going to start working on finding a solution.”
The event was held just days after the Del Mar City Council’s discussion on the issue during its Sept. 6 meeting. After community members took to Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhood communities, Parks invited North County Transit District (NCTD) to the meeting.
“It’s been a long time since ticketing had occurred, so people were really not aware that NCTD had the right to ticket,” Parks said. “We couldn’t let this grow. We needed to get NCTD at the council to discuss why they manage it the way they do and what they’ve done in the past to get people to avoid walking the tracks.”
North County Transit District stepped up enforcement at the start of August against people who cross or walk along the tracks through the coastal corridor. Violators can be fined up to $500 or face six months in jail.
The enhanced enforcement is to bring awareness to accidents and fatalities that occur on the tracks, according to NCTD’s Chief Planning Officer Dahvia Lynch, who spoke at the council meeting. There have been 19 fatalities and 15 injuries in the last two years.
Other impacts of trespassing, Lynch said, include increased erosion of the bluffs, damage to railroad infrastructure and equipment due to emergency stops, and passenger delays.
In response to enforcement efforts, dozens of residents called for NCTD to reduce ticketing at the meeting.
In the last month, concerned citizens formed an advocacy group called “Citizens for Access to Del Mar Beach / Bluffs / Trails” that submitted a petition with about 500 signatures to the city, calling for officers to cease issuing tickets when there is no train in sight, and for Del Mar and NCTD to work together and establish two or more designated sites to cross between Fourth Street and 15th Street, and work toward removing trains from the bluff within a decade.
Train service was suspended over the weekend due to maintenance, so Parks’ “Take Back the Tracks” event was intended for participants to imagine what life would be like in Del Mar without the tracks running through the community, which some residents have said is the long-term solution.
“What would it be like if the tracks were removed from the bluff and it was restored as a park?” Parks questioned. “We’ve committed ourselves to looking for short-term solutions, but the long-term solution is ultimately undergrounding the tracks.”
During the recent meeting, the council appointed a subcommittee to work with city staff, NCTD and San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). By the end of November, the subcommittee plans to report back to the full council with recommendations for immediate, short-term solutions that would allow people to walk safely and legally in or next to the railroad right-of-way.