In March, the Reader reported details of the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Improvement Project, quoting Ellen Quick, trails committee chairperson for the park advisory council, saying “Thirty-five acres will be revegetated with native plants. That’s going to bring more birds, more wildlife. The former ball field area will be restored and graded to natural contours. It’s going to be awesome.”
But judging from its current condition, not everyone is convinced it’s going to be awesome.
On Tuesday December 8th, 2018, Point Loma resident Pauline was walking at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park when she noticed workers spraying along the hillside.
“I walk the park at least 4 times a week and during a recent walk I was very upset to see three men with backpack sprayers walking in a line spraying the hillside,” she told me. “When I asked what they were doing the gentleman in the middle told me they were spraying to kill non-native plants and weeds. I informed him that this is a ‘natural’ park and asked what they were using for spray. He would not answer me and they did not like that I took their picture.”
When asked, San Diego City Public Information Officer Alec Phillip confirmed that; “Crews were using an herbicide to abate weeds from the site as part of the larger effort to restore natural vegetation in the area. The herbicide, Ranger Pro, is a post emergence, systemic herbicide with no residual soil activity. Throughout this project, crews have maintained storm water pollution measures that prevent water runoff and any potential spray drift from escaping the job site.”
Ranger Pro is generic Roundup Pro, and is equivalent to and just as effective as the name brand but much less expensive.
“While the use of Glyphosate-based pesticides such as Roundup (and related generic brands) has become highly politicized in recent years, the independent scientific community has shown the ability of these products to negatively impact marine and aquatic ecosystems,” said Marco Gonzalez of the Coastal Law Group LLC. “As such, I would expect the City to have significant protections in place to ensure runoff containing Glyphosate does not make its way into streams, reservoirs, or directly into the ocean. Use of such products in close proximity to sensitive coastal environments, such as throughout Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, certainly warrants concern.”
Community members have been sharing concerns since the onset of the re-development, concerns which seem to be growing.
“The next group of pictures are ones I have taken throughout this mass destruction of our ‘natural park,’” Pauline continued. “The trash that is left behind…the orange fencing has been up for over 3 years now has been disintegrating over the years leaving behind parts of small orange plastic which end up in our tide pools.”
Another concern? Run-off is forming a ‘mini lake’ after crews filled in an existing creek bed.
“For many years all the rain run off from Point Loma Nazarene College hillside as well as Lomaland Drive in both directions was directed into a culvert and then to an existing natural canyon and into the ocean. This worked well,” longtime resident Scott explained. “What this project has done is to fill in the existing creek which led to the canyon in order to build a road to access the area where the [college] ball field was. As a result, the rainwater runoff has no way to flow to the ocean and is directed onto the ball field area. This has caused a great deal of new erosion and the mini lake shown in the photo. The photos illustrate the before and after water run off routes and the new road which now blocks this.
"I do not know much about the poisoning of the new growth except that they are doing it. A couple of weeks ago when a friend pointed out the new growth as a sign of things returning to normal, I semi-seriously said ‘They will probably come in and kill it.’ Unfortunately, this actually is happening…I have been surfing, running the trails and exploring Sunset Cliffs for over 70 years and am disturbed about what they are doing to our Cliffs. Two of the greatest losses are the great palm they bulldozed and Billy’s Bench both of which were enjoyed by all for many years.”
Another resident, Geoff Page, has 45 years of experience in the construction business including that of an expert witness. He told me the following:
“Having been in the construction business my whole career, I can say with certainty that irrigation piping is not usually well installed and causes major damage when it leaks. Often, the leaks are not easily discovered until real damage has occurred. They installed thousands of feet of the stuff out there that will need to be closely watched. I wonder who will do that? And, what is to prevent them from using it if they think it is needed? This is a future catastrophe waiting to happen.”