FIDO, the Fiesta Island Dog Owners group, is worried that the San Diego Department of Park and Recreation's plans to revamp Fiesta Island may take away a much-used 90-acre city dog park and beach.
"The city has done a Mission Beach parks master plan update that cuts the size of the area and runs a road right across it," said Carolyn Chase, who serves on the FIDO board of directors. "We are trying to get the dog park recognized as a dog park and to protect that cherished space."
City officials were unable to confirm or deny the reports that the city has revived plans that go back to 2006. The plan calls for carving up the 600 acres of Fiesta Island into zones that include a ten-foot-wide paved walkway for skaters and pedestrians, bocce ball players, croquet courts, and an ampitheater. There are also plans to expand the youth campground and to build permanent restrooms.
"The city is currently in the process of hiring a consultant to complete an amendment to the Mission Bay Park Master Plan for Fiesta Island," city planning staffer Jeff Harkness wrote in an email.
Multiple attempts to reach city officials through the city's communications office failed to yield a response.
"They're doing the update because SeaWorld's update at the California Coastal Commission triggered it," Chase explained. "The commission requested an update of the Mission Beach plan with emphasis on public recreation."
The Fiesta Island dog park and beach area is heavily used by individuals and meetup groups for Corgis and Great Danes. San Diego Humane Society volunteers and trainers often take their dogs to Fiesta Island for fun and exercise as part of the Canine Adventure program, humane society officials said.
"The city traded us Fiesta Island and the Ocean Beach Dog Beach in the 1970s for no other dog parks," claims Chase — city planners okayed two beaches for dogs with the understanding that there would be few other dog play spots in the city parks system. "Fiesta Island is the most-used area in the Mission Beach parks."
The island is also used by equestrians and paddlers, off-road vehicle groups, and bicyclists (though it's worthwhile questioning the safety of two-wheeled non-motorized vehicles on the blacktop that edges the perimeter of the island). The Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) holds the annual Over-the-Line tournament there, and it is home to the Fiesta Island Youth Aquatic Camp.
In 2006, the city floated a plan developed by Nasland that would have cut the dog park in half.
The city's last plan, from 2011, is shown here. FIDO launched a campaign to protect the zone that ended in 2013, when then-mayor Bob Filner promised to protect the dog beach.
But with the city's renewed efforts to update the Mission Beach, the FIDO group is worried that there will be another attempt to carve up the dog park.
"There has been an important movement to establish smaller dog parks and that's valuable, but there needs to be a place where dogs can just run that's nice for owners to relax and spend some time too," Chase said. "In an urban area, you won't find a better beach."