After months of poring over notes gathered after consulting with community members in June the San Diego Audubon Society, tasked with developing a plan to restore wildlife habitat in the northeastern corner of Mission Bay Park, presented a handful of options for public comment at Mission Bay High School on Tuesday (September 27).
"We've taken public input from the first two meetings, looked at how we could achieve the community's goals and include features important to them, and put that together in these eight alternatives," Audubon conservation director Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg explained. "We're now asking — this is what you asked for, or this is what we heard, did we get it right?"
One of the more frequent requests at the initial series of meetings hosted by the Audubon-sponsored group ReWild Mission Bay was preservation of the Campland on the Bay RV park, whose lease will soon expire. None of the eight options envisions Campland remaining at its existing site between Rose Creek and the slated-for-expansion Kendall-Frost Marsh, though the possibility remains to re-open the park where the De Anza Cove Mobile Home Park once stood or where an 18-hole golf course is currently sited. While the tenants at De Anza were eventually forced out by the city after the expiration of the site's lease, there is still some time remaining on the leaseholds of the adjacent recreational facilities.
"Everything that were doing is guided by the existing Mission Bay Park Master Plan, which calls for the existing Campland site to be restored to marsh after the lease expires," Schwartz Lesberg said. "What we've heard from the public so far is that they'd like a gradient of intensity of human use — closer to the road, have more intensive uses like ball fields, RV camping, or golf, while as you get closer to habitat area you'd scale back use to features like picnic areas or boardwalks."
Still, planning for the portions of the park that will remain dedicated primarily to human pastimes falls outside the scope of ReWild's work.
"Ultimately, we're here to identify how to restore wetlands. That's where our expertise lies," Schwartz Lesberg continued. "We were going to leave the human-use component to the city, which has jurisdiction there. But we got so much feedback over our first two meetings asking us to identify high and low human use, that we decided to include it on the draft alternatives."
Those alternatives, including details on what differentiates each and overlays designating proposed uses for various portions of the 170-acre site, are available on ReWild Mission Bay's website. The group is collecting comments for public input for the next two weeks, at which point they'll begin fine tuning the potential site plans further.
"This is not a voting contest – we're asking which individual features are liked the best. If there's overwhelming support for one or two alternatives specifically, and our scientists tell us they're feasible and cost effective, maybe those make it through to the final four," Schwartz Lesberg continued. "More likely, though, we'll identify portions of several different options that will come together in new alternatives.
"These all work toward goals like water quality improvements, coastline stabilization, access for recreation, those will come together in new alternatives that will be finalized."
One thing that's consistent across all proposals is an increased focus on community interaction with nature in the newly expanded habitat area.
"Access is a big part of what we want to focus on. Right now the existing marsh is hidden behind a chain-link fence, and there's almost no access. That's because it's so small and so fragile. As we increase size, the habitat becomes less fragile so that we can open up to walking trails, overlooks, a discovery center, or somewhere to bring children for nature-based play. Part of the vision of ReWild Mission Bay is to not only restore wetlands, but expand community access to nature in an urban setting."