By Karen Billing
The San Dieguito River Park’s “Birdwing” open air classroom is taking shape near the lagoon in Del Mar; construction continued quietly last week to a soundtrack of the wetlands’ singing birds.
The facility borrows its name from the wing-like design of the rustic metal shade structure that covers rows of concrete bench seating for environmental education; the open air affording scenic views out across the carefully restored wetlands.
According to Dick Bobertz, executive director of the San Dieguito River Park, finishing touches on the classroom off Via de la Valle will be in place by April and it will open to the public in mid-May.
It is already scheduled for numerous events for the first several months and a grand opening ceremony has been set for Tuesday, May 13, at 10 a.m.
“The Birdwing will be the River Park’s first permanent venue for group presentations and will greatly expand our public education program capacity,” Bobertz said. “One of our most important objectives is to help kids make a physical connection with the environment, so we will be bringing school classes to the Birdwing as much as possible.”
The classroom is being built with $330,000 of donor funds, $112,000 of which coming from the county and former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. The Birdwing phase of the project broke ground in October 2013, with Southwest General Contractors of Escondido doing the work.
The classroom is carved out of a slope in between two trails, the upper and lower portions of the Coast to Crest Trail through the lagoon. Four curved rows of concrete seating terrace down to a “stage” area at the bottom. The classroom can accommodate 80 people with its permanent seating but with temporary chairs on the stage area, it could hold 120 people.
New wood bridges built on the trail will lead into the classroom and salvaged boulders will be placed on the edges. Some of the boulders are already in place marking the trail.
Volunteers were hard at work last week planting the surrounding areas with shrubs, Coastal Sage Scrub mix and riparian trees.
A parking area is also in the works. About 60 spaces in the decomposed granite lot adjacent to the site will serve trail users, the classroom and a future lagoon nature center.
A public design process for the nature center was completed in 2009 and it is proposed to be located about halfway between San Andreas and the Birdwing. According to Bobertz, the capital program to get the funds necessary for the nature center is expected to begin in May.
For more information, visit sdrp.org