Overriding objections from environmentalists to delay rather than rush its choice, the park committee voted 5-3 in favor of “alternative 2,” which will now be forwarded for city environmental review.
“Unfortunately, the two concepts presented by the city were driven by misguided priorities that ultimately fail to reach the goals of the Mission Bay Park Master Plan,” said Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg of nonprofit San Diego Audubon. “It’s disappointing to watch the city push concepts that are not resilient to sea level rise, ignoring the inevitable. These concepts place the burden of responding to climate change on future generations, and miss the opportunity to prepare our region for shrinking coastlines.”
To adequately protect wetlands in Mission Bay, Schwartz Lesberg said, the city would need to dedicate at least 200 acres — less than 5 percent of Mission Bay — to habitat. The preferred plan currently only has around 30 to 40 acres set aside for wetlands, increasing the less than 2 percent of wetlands in the bay to less than 3 percent.
The city’s Mission Bay Park Master Plan requires wetlands restoration and improvements aimed at protecting those marsh areas, Schwartz Lesberg noted.
She said the alternative selected “Does very little to correct the bay-wide imbalance that has for decades favored commerce and recreation at the expense of the environment.”
A regional park, Mission Bay has a city-owned, 18-hole golf course as well as ball fields and tennis and volleyball courts. It includes dog-friendly, off-leash Fiesta Island. The park is home to a myriad of aquatic interests — boating, swimming, kayaking, etc. There is also lodging at Campland on the Bay, which provides RV and tent camping.
Recreationalists were generally pleased by the committee’s selection of alternative 2, which spares the 50-plus year-old Mission Bay Golf Course. Some wanted the golf course downsized or eliminated altogether, arguing it took up too much park space and that it has been operating at a deficit for years.
The preferred plan, alternative 2, allows for 38 acres of wetland. A total of 40 acres are also set aside for “guest housing.” The plan also considers creation of ball fields and a restaurant, while providing beach access for water sports that don’t rely on combustible engines.
The fate of Campland on the Bay, whose supporters testified at the Dec. 6 park committee meeting that their families have enjoyed the camp for as many as three generations, remains uncertain. Approximately 80 percent of Campland’s visitors are San Diegans. Campland presently pays about $3 million in transit occupancy taxes and rent.
Jacob Gelfand, vice president of operations at Campland on the Bay, said it would be a mistake to ignore the importance of lodging in planning for De Anza Cove.
“Campland has been a beloved local asset, coming up on 50 years,” Gelfand said. “Any plan the city puts forward should reflect the community’s need for continuing waterfront camping access.”
Said Gelfand: “There’s been a lot written in the media about perceived conflict between camping and other potential uses. For the last 50 years, Campland has been a dedicated environmental steward and neighbor to the Kendall-Frost Marsh. A lot of our campsites overlook the wetlands marsh, and there really is a symbiotic relationship between the marsh and the camp, with a lot of our tenants requesting sites with views of the marsh so they can reconnect with the natural environment.”
ReWild Mission Bay is a project of San Diego Audubon to enhance and restore up to 170 acres of wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay. Wetlands including marshes, mud flats and riverbanks, which are instrumental in attracting wildlife, fostering a diverse ecosystem, improving water quality and protecting communities from flooding by providing a cushion during high tides.
Today, only about 1 percent of the historic 4,500 acres of Mission Bay wetlands remain, which leads environmentalists to conclude that ReWild Mission Bay is a critical and time-sensitive project for the area.
“Both of the De Anza Revitalization plans reconnect Kendall-Frost Marsh with Rose Creek, which will help the remaining 40 acres of wetlands survive,” said Schwartz Lesberg previously. “What is missing from both alternatives is the long-term view to ensure wetlands can continue to create cleaner water, buffer communities from sea-level rise, provide habitat for wildlife, and get people out in nature. If they (wetlands) disappear — so do those services.”