ENCINITAS — Engage Encinitas civic group was formed a year ago by former mayor Teresa Barth and fellow residents. The idea behind the group is to inform and involve residents in civic engagement without the rancor of politics.
Barth said the group’s focus is on community building and restoring a sense of civic responsibility.
“I hope we’re fulfilling a bit of that niche,” Barth said.
In its first year the nonprofit has held eight Citizen Academy lectures at the Encinitas Library, and led several community field trips.
Lecture topics ranged from water use and reuse, to urban agriculture, disaster preparedness and plans to renovate the Pacific View School site into a community arts and ecology center.
Community field trips have included a summer beach party, service work and tour of the San Elijo Water Reclamation Facility.
The group started up shortly after Barth left office.
“When I was on council I realized a lot of people didn’t understand the working of city government,” Barth said.
She added residents often shared concerns about their street or water bill, without taking into account how city efforts benefit the whole.
Barth said last year’s panel discussion on recycled water and water distribution had one of the biggest impacts in informing residents about city operations.
She said residents shared that they had a new understanding of the water delivery system and the complexity of water reuse.
“I’m hopeful the next time we discuss more purple pipe people will understand the importance that it may be inconvenient to me for awhile, but will benefit the community at large,” Barth said.
Engage Encinitas events have impacted more than 350 residents.
“I’m grateful for how positive the community has reacted to our efforts,” Barth said. “Hundreds do want to get involved in genuine civic engagement. Last year validated that.”
On Jan. 18 the group gathered at Ocean Knoll Farm to rebuild the educational greenhouse. The workday fell on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is recognized as a national day of service.
Barth said the day also marks the nonprofit’s one-year anniversary. There will not be any fanfare about the group’s anniversary on that day, just community members pitching in to make their city a better place.
“We started last year with the first event on the King holiday, which was a beach cleanup,” Barth said.
In the year ahead the group plans to hold more community field trips, and limit lectures to six. Topics will reflect community interest items suggested by residents at the nonprofit’s meeting last December.
A lecture on Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area is planned for sometime this year.
Additionally, a community tour of the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation is scheduled for Jan. 31. The field trip will share the center’s plans to help reduce food waste in landfills.
Engage Encinitas is an all-volunteer organization that is funded through donations and in kind contributions. Barth said speakers have presented pro bono, the library has partnered with the group to allow use of its facility and one speaker has offered to donate sales profit from his book toward group fundraising.
Founding members of Engage Encinitas include Barth; Liz Taylor, board president of the San Diego Coastkeeper and staff attorney for UC Irvine’s School of Law’s Center for Land, Environmental and Natural Resources; Mim Michelove, co-president of Healthy Day Partners and a leader in Encinitas Union School District’s agricultural activities; and Tiffany Fox, public information representative at UC San Diego.