San Dieguito River Park could face the ‘end of a vision’

By Suzanne Evans


The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board asked regional issues co-chair Jan Fuchs on Tuesday to prepare a letter to District 1 Councilwoman Sherri Lightner protesting the potential loss of city funding for the San Dieguito River Park.

Fearing the “end of a vision,” Susan Carter, the park’s deputy director, wrote in her recent newsletter: “The proposed budget cuts will have dramatic impacts on the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and we urgently need (the community’s) help to stop that from happening.”

Carter said the budget would eliminate all funding ($295,084) for the park in the next budget year, and not pay the final quarter payment ($73,771) this year. The city’s share is 36 percent of the JPA’s member agency contributions.

“These cuts will result in several immediate layoffs in our small staff (eight employees, including five rangers and three part-time staff). There is no cushion in our budget after several years of cutbacks,” Carter said. “But even worse, the city’s withdrawal from the JPA could have a domino effect leading to other member agencies also leaving, which would be fatal for the JPA.”

The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority was established to create a greenway and natural open space park system in the San Dieguito River Valley from the river’s source on Volcan Mountain to the ocean at Del Mar. The JPA was established as an independent local government agency in 1989 by the county of San Diego and the cities of Del Mar, Escondido, Poway, San Diego and Solana Beach.

“The city of San Diego had one chance to save one of the state’s last remaining wetlands ... other habitats along the San Dieguito River Valley are also endangered,” the board proposed to say in its letter to Lightner, urging her not to accept the cuts. “Together, the mosaic of habitats found nowhere else in the United States, is what the San Dieguito River Valley represents to us, and to all the residents of San Diego.”

The city is holding a hearing Wednesday, Dec. 9, on planned cuts to the river park.