Community celebrates grand opening of San Dieguito River Park’s Birdwing Open Air Classroom

By Kristina Houck

Elected officials and community members gathered May 13 to celebrate the grand opening of the new Birdwing Open Air Classroom along the San Dieguito Lagoon.

The San Dieguito River Park’s 80-seat amphitheater features rows of concrete benches covered by panels of perforated stainless steel. The outdoor facility overlooks scenic views of the carefully restored wetlands.

“This open air classroom is truly an asset for all San Diego County residents and visitors,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who serves as chairman of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority. “It’s an education center located in the heart of a living laboratory, the San Dieguito Lagoon.”

The roughly $500,000 classroom was constructed with a $340,000 grant from the county, which kicked off the project. The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that supports the River Park and education, raised more than $170,000 in donations.

“It’s a great accomplishment to restore this rare habitat of the lagoon, but you can’t stop there,” said Dick Bobertz, executive director of the San Dieguito River Park. “You’ve got to provide opportunities for people to interact with that environment, to appreciate the value of our natural environment. That’s what this project allows us to do.”

The grand opening event was held during Lagoon Days, an annual three-day event when 600 third-grade students from Del Mar visit the San Dieguito Lagoon to learn about the environment, including coastal wildlife and native plants. Students participated in a variety of hands-on activities, viewing plants and wildlife through binoculars and magnifying glasses, writing haikus and creating nature-inspired art.

“This is a visionary classroom that we wanted to make available for the public and for the children, for anyone who really wants to come and enjoy what we have to offer here,” said former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price.

Managed by the San Dieguito River Park, the venue will also be available for public events through a permit process. A variety of free public activities and events are already scheduled every weekend through July.

For more information about the classroom and upcoming events, visit