Hike funding

Supervisors will sue district funding for San Diego River Park and trail system

San Diego River
Part of the San Diego River. Photo via @SanDiegoRiver Twitter

The Board of Supervisors Unanimity on Wednesday voted for county staff to pursue formation of a special funding district for the 130-mile project San Diego River Park and Track.

County Parks and Recreation staff members recommended an improved infrastructure funding district — one that doesn’t require new taxes or a ballot measure — that generates revenue based on partnerships with city governments and related boundaries.

County officials will ask the city of San Diego to support the EIFD, then return to the council in 18 months with the steps needed to formally form it.

First conceived 20 years ago, the proposed trail would stretch from the San Diego River at Ocean Beach to the headwaters of the Cuyamaca Mountains in the town of Julian. Funders say that in addition to the recreational benefits, the trail network would also be important for habitat conservation.

Board chairman Nathan Fletcher said making the park a reality has been a challenge due to economic conditions and jurisdictional issues.

“We all need to act together to ensure the funding arrives,” he said. “We don’t need a tax increase to achieve this.”

He added that once the park is fully developed, it “will be here forever.”

Parks and Recreation budget manager James Inglis said a county task force held outreach meetings in early 2021 with various nonprofits, businesses, tribal governments, community planning groups and residents. .

“The feedback we received was positive,” Inglis said, adding there was great interest in completing the course.

Other groups advocating for a park trail system include San Diego Councilman Raul Campillo, Mayor Todd Gloria, Kumeyaay Diegueno Land Conservancy, San Diego River Park Foundation, San Diego River Conservancy, and the group of San Diego regional work on homelessness.

Rob Hutsell, CEO of River Park Foundation, thanked the board for moving forward during Wednesday’s public comment period. He said his organization started over 21 years ago with a simple thought; to clean and maintain the river and make it accessible to all.

“There (are) a lot of people supporting you today,” Hutsell added.

Mary Sheppard, who lives in the Mission Valley neighborhood, said she would like to walk down her street and take advantage of nearby trails and parks.

“We are sorely lacking meaningful and safe access to the river, and that has become really evident during the pandemic,” she added.

Supervisor Joel Anderson said it was also important to address the issue of homeless people living near the river bed and help them – otherwise residents might not want to walk the trails.

Michael Vu, deputy deputy superintendent, said the county is considering $150 million in state and federal funds to address the issue of homeless encampments.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said it’s important to think about residents whose access to the river is cut off by highway projects.

Lawson-Remer, who grew up in the Mission Hills neighborhood near the river and cycled from Old Town to Mission Beach, said she couldn’t understand why elected leaders hadn’t previously invested in the river. San Diego, given its beauty.

She added that in other large cities, residents can more easily cycle and hike near a river.

City News Service contributed to this article.