San Dieguito River Park’s coastal ranger station takes shape

The new coastal ranger station at the San Dieguito River Park.
(Karen Billing)

The new Coastal Ranger Station at the San Dieguito River Park lagoon is under construction, bringing a companion office for park staff and providing a community asset.

The ranger station has been a long time in the planning. It was approved back in 2015 but was redesigned in summer 2018 after construction bids came in higher than anticipated, according to Kevin McKernan, executive director of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority. They brought on contractor Dewain Baker of Baker Design/Build to start over with a new functional and nice design that met their needs.

The design features two buildings and thanks to a donor pledge, the pitched roof will have solar.

In one building there will be a ranger office and a community meeting space. Before this, McKernan said the three rangers worked in a construction trailer with their backs bumping into each other and if they had a meeting, they tended to gather at local coffee shops, “Now we’ll have space to work and for meetings,” McKernan said.

The ranger station will provide a place for trail volunteers, the Dust Devils, who show up every Friday.

The whole building is designed to face the wetlands and all of the windows fold back accordion-style and open up onto a patio. There is also a kitchenette for staff.

The other building will have a garage and the river park’s first permanent bathroom, which will be open to the public.

McKernan said for the for last eight years, equipment has been kept in construction trailers and sheds that were vulnerable to theft and vandalism. The garage will be a great benefit, as well as a secured work yard between the two buildings.

The ranger station is expected to be complete in February 2020 but it has already hosted its first meeting of the San Dieguito River Park JPA, composed of elected officials from the county and local cities. In June, Dwight Worden (Del Mar), Olga Diaz (Escondido), Dave Grosch (Poway), Barbara Bry (San Diego) and Dustin Fuller (22nd Agricultural District) were in attendance for a quick meeting and tour of the space.

The $846,000 ranger station construction is being funded by several sources, including Southern California Edison, State Coastal Conservancy, a private family bequest, other private donations and a loan.

“So far we’re on budget and on schedule and looking forward to having it done,” McKernan said.