Sunset Point, Vacation Isle Park, Ingraham Street bridge, Ski Beach, and Government Island in Mission Bay. / PHOTO BY THOMAS MELVILLE
San Diego officials have unveiled plans to spend $117 million during the next decade upgrading Mission Bay Park, providing new amenities, restoring marshland and creating additional habitat for endangered species.
New amenities for Mission Bay Park will include cycling and pedestrian paths, playgrounds, a fitness course, lighting, signs, landscaping, resurfaced parking lots and rehabilitation of the seawall.
“This is very good news,” said Mission Beach Town Council president Gary Wonacott. “The town council has been promoting the restoration of the Boardwalk seawall for some time. The Mission Bay Park area truly serves all of San Diego. This investment is money well spent.”
Proposition C, approved by voters in 2008, mapped out a specific list of priority improvement projects for Mission Bay Park. Measure J, approved in 2016, allowed for multiple projects on the priority list to be pursued simultaneously, “As long as they did not preclude the completion of higher-priority projects,” said City spokesman Tim Graham.
“The first few projects on the priority list require lengthy environmental analysis. We have, therefore, developed a plan that will first implement several projects such as new comfort stations, playgrounds and parking lots,” Graham said.
San Diego Park and Recreation has started an evaluation of park amenities such as playgrounds, comfort stations and parking lots, said Graham. A 10-year Mission Bay Park Improvement Fund allocation plan, developed by Park and Recreation staff, will be considered by the City Council on Monday, Dec. 4.
Before being amended, the regulations required the park’s share of lease revenues to be devoted to two priorities: dredging the floor of the bay to boost boating opportunities, and restoration of marshland, which helps fight sea-level rise.
New charter amendments maintain those priorities, but allow the city to begin spending money on lower-priority projects, while lengthy environmental approvals are secured for dredging and marshland restoration.
Graham said dredging and marshland restoration nonetheless still top the park's priority list.
“The dredging project is designed to return navigational boating safety to Mission Bay,” he said. “It is scheduled to last approximately five to six months. Wetland creation and restoration is designed to improve the bay’s water quality.”
How will marshland habitat be restored?
“Campland’s 40 acres next to Kendall-Frost (preserve) will be converted to new wetland/marshland,” said Graham. “The goal is to first filter low-flow runoff from Rose Creek before it reaches the bay. De Anza will have new wetland along Rose Creek and around its perimeter. New wetland restoration will also take place at Cudahy and Tecolote creeks where they enter the bay.”
How long will it take the city to get environmental approvals for dredging/habitat restoration?
“The dredging project is currently permitted,” Graham said. “We anticipate commencing the project in December or early January.”
Graham added habitat restoration environmental review most likely will take at least three years.
“Any eelgrass impacted from the dredging project will be mitigated through the planting of new eelgrass,” he said. “Any impacts to nesting least terns will be minimized.”
Graham said funds to upgrade the park are “100 percent Mission Bay Park lease revenues generated annually in Mission Bay Park and earmarked specifically for improvements in the park.”
The city spokesperson said the park’s annual lease revenues are approximately $30 million. The first $20 million goes to the city's general fund. The remaining $10 million is allocated 65 percent to the Mission Bay Park Improvement Fund and 35 percent to the San Diego Regional Parks Improvement Fund.
The San Diego Charter restricts capital improvements in Mission Bay to complete the following prioritized projects:
• Restoration of navigable waters and elimination of navigable hazards;
• Wetland expansion and water-quality improvements;
• Restoration of shoreline treatments;
• Expansion of endangered or threatened species preserves and habitats; and
• Deferred maintenance projects.