SAN DIEGO — A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held May 13 for the Birdwing Open Air Classroom, an approximately $700,000 structure County Supervisor Dave Roberts described as “an education center in the heart of a living laboratory — the San Dieguito Lagoon.”
Roberts, chairman of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority, stressed that the facility is just one example of how the restored wetlands are thriving.
He noted that Del Mar recently renewed its agreement with the JPA for an additional 50 years, and Solana Beach was slated to follow suit May 14.
He also praised Dick Bobertz, the river park’s executive director, for giving up his entire salary during tough economic times and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer for recently reinstating that city’s funding for the JPA.
“He gets it,” Roberts said of Faulconer. “He wants this to work.”
Most of the funding for the Birdwing came from the county. Roberts’ predecessor, Pam Slater-Price, secured $340,000 in grants.
Roberts said when he took office in 2012 officials from the JPA told him they needed $155,000 to complete the project.
“So I did what every newly elected official does,” Roberts said. “I asked my staff, ‘Can I do that?’” When he was told yes he committed the necessary grant money.
Another approximately $170,000 came from private donations.
The structure features panels of perforated stainless steel to filter light and provide a comfortable area to view the surrounding lagoon.
Slater-Price said it is a place where the public can “enjoy the lagoon without disturbing the wildlife.” Visitors can walk, bike or horseback ride “while being respectful to the real residents, the animals and the plants,” she said.
Bobertz added that the project also provides an opportunity for the public to interact with the environment.
The Birdwing, which will be used throughout the year for classroom field trips, is already booked to the end of July with more than 20 programs that are free and open to the public.
Topics include animal tracking, the human equestrian bond, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, nature photography and birds of prey, to name a few.
“When it’s not used for events you can come with your coffee and enjoy the view,” Bobertz said.
Visit sdrp.org for more information and a complete list of events.