DEL MAR — Ambling down the sandy pathway heading towards Dog Beach, three hikers were finishing the final segment of their more than 70-mile trek of the Coast to Crest Trail.
A six-mile hike was all that was needed for Poway City Councilman Jim Cunningham, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy Board member Bill Simmons and Dick Bobertz, executive director of the San Dieguito River Park, to complete the journey, which took place over a span of several months.
Cunningham, Simmons and Bobertz broke up the trek into several segments, hiking approximately 10 miles each time, which began back in May of last year, at the crest of Volcan Mountain, an elevation of about 4,500 feet.
Cunningham, who has served as the chair of the San Dieguito River Park for almost a year, vowed to hike the full length of the trail for several reasons, he explained, including gaining a sense of the enormity of the park.
“I wanted to get a sense as to the entirety of the project, and also bring awareness to what’s out there — that this jewel in our community, that for the most part is undiscovered, needs some recognition,” he said.
The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and the San Dieguito River Park have been working since 1986 to bring the vision of a 92,000-acre park of open space into reality.
The 72 miles that stretch from Volcan Mountain to the Del Mar coast aren’t fully connected (45 miles of the trail are actual, constructed trail), the rest is traversable only through some bushwhacking or is on private land requiring permission to cross.
And while it isn’t yet possible for the public to hike continuously from coast to crest, Cunningham said he thinks it won’t be very long before that’s possible.
A native New Yorker, Cunningham admitted he was more a runner than a hiker before embarking on the trek. “But now hiking is definitely embedded in my DNA at this point,” he said.
It was announced at the event, too, that San Diego County Board of Supervisors Dave Roberts may become the River Park’s new chair. The River Park’s Nominating Committee has recommended Roberts for chair and Del Mar’s Don Mosier as vice-chair.
A vote is scheduled for Feb. 21.
This would be the second time Roberts has held the position. His first time as chair was back in 2008, a year after the wildfires that ravaged most of the park and trail system, and what he referred to as their “rebuilding” year.
Roberts urged the students from San Marcos’ High Tech High, who were present at the event to take away the message of the day, that preservation of the open space was for them and future generations to enjoy.
In March, the school’s 11th grade students will hike the entirety of the trail over a period of five to six days. They’ll be led by High Tech High’s Biology teacher Matt Leader and UCSD grad students in an effort to teach about the park’s diverse habitats.
Roberts asked the teens at the event, that when they’re on their hike, to think about all of the land that could have been developed over with tract homes.
“That’s why we’re doing it,” Roberts said. “To preserve some of that quality of life, so that for generations to come, we can see what it was really like here in that natural beauty.”