By Sylvia Hampton
July 9, 2010 (San Diego) -- One of our most prized regional achievements and treasures in San Diego County is the San Dieguito River Park, located in our back yard. When Mayor Sander’s budget was approved by the San Diego City Council recently it included cutting $254,000 annual contribution to the river park, which is 36% of the park’s budget.
But there was also a request to find out if money from the Water Utilities Fund could be used for the park activities that directly protect the water utilities assets. The City Attorney’s office said yes, the park’s management of properties in the Lake Hodges area could be compensated because those activities protect and enhance the drinking water resources. But the Mayor does not seem to understand the importance of the park.
According to a source he confused it with the San Diego River Park, which is, of course, a different river that runs through Mission Valley. Council members Carl DeMaio and Sherri Lightner are also members of the joint powers authority that oversees the San Diegutio River Park, and are natural champions of the park. They both voted against the Mayor’s budget.
Councilman DeMaio said, “We realize the value and importance of the River Park to San Diego residents. I have requested that the River Park consider several ways to achieve efficiencies and to curb the unsustainable labor costs. If those reforms are implemented, they will generate cost savings to keep all River Park services in tact this year.”
According to Conservation Biologist Jerre Ann Stallcup, in a letter to the Mayor and Council, “The San Dieguito River Park represents the northern conservation anchor for the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), developed under the City’s leadership and under which the City has contractual obligations, through its MSCP Implementing Agreement, for management. The City is fortunate to have the River Park staff taking on this management responsibility on behalf of the City and leveraging the support of hundreds of volunteers, thus representing an overall cost savings for the City. Without this management, the City will be liable for the welfare of all the MSCP species that depend on the habitats in the San Dieguito River Valley, many of whose populations are already at risk as a result of the 2007 Witch Fire. This does not bode well for the City’s other open space commitments.”
It was 22 years ago that six government entities: the city of San Diego, the County, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Poway and Escondido, formed a JPA (joint powers authority) to develop and manage a “dream river park” that ran from the mountains to the ocean. They raised over $18million to acquire the land. It has been the residents of San Diego who have benefited most from this park and have the most to lose.
This park issue is about water quality and supply, wildlife, educational programs, and open space. It is about preserving the 2,256 acres of land within Lake Sutherland, Lake Hodges, and San Pasqual watershed and 22 years of hard work and public investment. Teddy Roosevelt is spinning in his grave and yelling out to us to conserve and protect this park.
It is our job to tell Mayor Sanders we want the park compensated with water utilities funds as determined by the City Attorney to be a proper investment for us all.
Contact: Mayor Jerry Sanders, City of San Diego, 202 C Street, San Diego, CA 92101 or JerrySanders@sandiego.gov Phone: (619) 236-6330 Fax: (619) 236-7228
Sylvia Hampton is a community activist inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of fame for 2008 for her work in the fields of healthcare reform, social justice and reproductive health. She is the past president of the League of Women Voters of San Diego County and served on President Nixon’s Title X Family Planning Council. Her monthly Community Forum column is published in the Sun Signature Community Newspaper, Diamond Gateway Signature, and her Soapbox in the East County Magazine. Opinions are Sylvia’s alone and not to be interpreted as the policies of the League of Women Voters or East County Magazine.