ESCONDIDO — At its June 5 meeting, the Escondido City Council enabled city staff to apply for a $8.5 million state grant which, if received, would go toward improvements to the Escondido Creek Trail. The City Council also granted the city of Escondido Communications & Community Services Department $40,000 to begin community outreach to see what those improvements might look like, based on public feedback.
The 6.2-mile long Escondido Creek Trail bisects the city going east-to-west paralleling State Highway 78, but major chunks of the bike and walking/running path are dilapidated. The grant money, explains a document provided to the Escondido City Council in files appended to the meeting agenda, would come under the auspices of Proposition 68, a ballot initiative passed by California voters in June 2018.
Some of the improvements envisioned include “adding rest points along the trail with interpretive paving design artwork,” “landscape improvements throughout the trail emphasizing native and naturalized planting,” “new LED lighting,” “public art installations,” better signage, new fencing and more.
The city of Escondido Communications & Community Services emphasized that it would undergo a robust public outreach program if it received the money.
“City staff will work with a consultant in order to facilitate community outreach, report preparation, survey design and analysis, create maps and exhibits, and assist with project design and scope for the grant application submission,” it wrote. “There will be a minimum of five outreach events to maximize community input.”
In its request for proposals seeking consultant help to put together a grant application for the state money, the city of Escondido says it sees improvement of the pathway as a way to help transform the neighboring underserved communities.
“Appearance and situational barriers have created significant impediments for widespread use, but all of that is changing,” reads the RFP. “The City of Escondido is committed to re-imagining the Creek corridor as a recreational and environmental asset. The Escondido Creek Trail could help residents commute to the Escondido Transit Center or to local services, as well as providing a pleasant opportunity for recreation.”
The conceptual framework for the improvements came from a 2010 report titled, “Revealing Escondido Creek: A Vision Plan for the City of Escondido,” written by scholars from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in contract with the city of Escondido. Taking the long view, the 200-plus page report envisioned an eventual Creekwalk Park which creates the Escondido Creek as a place residents and visitors will frequent.
“The vision is of a park extending the length of the creek boundaries, connecting neighborhoods to the downtown, schools to parks, and communities to creek-oriented destinations via safe and attractive trails,” explained that report. “The Escondido Creekwalk will incorporate the existing Escondido Creek Trail and proposes creating a linear system of park sites and extensions to the existing trail.”
Those study findings would eventually weave their way into the 2012 Escondido Creek Master Plan report, another document calling for a total revamp of the creek as a way to transform the city’s central core asset. That report says that the city would like to improve lighting on the path, install surveillance cameras, mileage markers, better street crossings, among others. It may eventually have a grand entrance sign too, akin to the rail trail in Solana Beach, according to that master plan.
Photo Caption: The Escondido Creek Conservancy discovered an illegal trail built on its property and an adjacent lot totaling one mile in length in 2018. Courtesy photo
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news ouetlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com.
A native of Wisconsin and graduate of University of Wisconsin, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and nine marathons under his belt. He also has served on the film screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.