Funding for River Park restored

Funding for River Park restored
Kevin Faulconer, the mayor of San Diego, reversed his decision to not include funding to the San Dieguito River Park. The cut in funding would have had serious impacts on the River Park’s staffing levels. Photo by Tony Cagala

REGION — Had the funding not been restored to the San Dieguito River Park, members of the Joint Powers Authority Board would have been working on a plan b to establish their budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which would most likely have included layoffs to park rangers.

But after the submission of 1,500 petitions delivered to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Diego City Council members on May 1, and meetings between the city and JPA members in April to discuss the cost benefits of the park, Faulconer agreed to restore the $254,000 funding.

“I’m glad that we won’t be looking at immediate layoffs,” said Susan Carter, deputy director of the San Dieguito River Park.

Faulconer released a letter on May 2 to County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who is also the chair of the JPA Board.

The letter agreed to reinstate the funding to the River Park for one year, though it also included several points of concerns that the city wants addressed by the JPA.

“I think it’s a very positive step, and I’m really pleased that the mayor and the City Council understand the value of our partnership that we’ve had over the last 25 years,” said Roberts.

“We’re going to look at all of the different items that were raised; we met with the mayor and two of the council members, Council member (Sherri) Lightner and Council member (Mark) Kersey, and we had heard about the issues so we want to bring them back to the full board to discuss in public.”

Lightner and Kersey also serve on the JPA board.

Carter did have some confusion about the city’s concerns, but she added that the JPA board would look to address them possibly at their May 16 meeting.

Having just finished the Birdwing Open Air Classroom, off of Via de la Valle, which is slated for a grand opening May 13, the River Park’s next large project will be the building of a ranger station near the Birdwing structure, but closer to the California Bank & Trust building, explained Carter.

“We’re also working on extending the Coast to Crest trail, east of El Camino Real, and then further in eastern back country, and we’re working in Pauma Valley to extend the trail,” Carter said.

Carter added that funding from the city was steady until April 2010, when they eliminated all of their funding to the JPA.

“We went for three-and-a-quarter years without any funding,” said Carter.

Former Mayor Bob Filner reinstated the funding in 2013 for the 2014 fiscal year.

During the more than three years without the city’s funding, the River Park was able to keep going without laying anyone off due to a combination of things, including their executive director retiring and continuing to work pro bono, as well as other member agencies increasing contributions.

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