The committee however made a concession to non-motorized paddleboard and kayak users, who argued their water access would be hampered by the option chosen. The committee attached a provision to its motion that an alternate site be sought in and around Fiesta Island to accommodate the launching needs of non-motorized recreational boat users.
The proposed project is an amendment to the Mission Bay Park Master Plan to update the land uses and vision for Fiesta Island.
MBPC was asked by the City to choose between: Option A, which would divide the island with a road and reduce access for off-leash dog park users; and Option B, which would keep the area intact and undivided while increasing the fenced, off-leash area.
The discussion before the park committee quickly evolved into a contest between Fiesta Island Dog Owners (FIDO), who preferred Option B, the non-road choice, and non-motorized boat users, including kayakers and paddle boarders, who preferred Option A with the road. Water recreationalists claimed the non-road option now selected by the board has left them without appropriate spots on the island from which to launch their watercraft.
“Option B leaves the dog park intact, undeveloped and would require less maintenance,” argued FIDO board member and spokes person Kathy Parrish adding, “Dog owners use Fiesta Island 365 days a year.”
Parrish noted an estimated 45 percent of San Diegans have dogs, which number about 800,000 countywide. She contended that dog-related industries in San Diego “account for $1.2 billion a year in economic impacts.”
Neither side had enmity toward the other. FIDO members said they bore watercraft users no malice. And watercraft users said they liked dogs, just didn’t feel that the road option was the best for them because it limits their recreational access. Recreationalists also argued that water-dependent non-motorized boating use was a higher priority than the off-leash dog park, an activity they noted can be done elsewhere on land.
City planners Jan. 8 also promised that the non-road option through the Fiesta Island off-leash dog park, though not being recommended by MBPC, would nonetheless be passed along to future planning bodies. The Wetlands Advisory Board, Park and Recreation Board, City Planning Commission, City Council and California Coastal Commission must also sign-off on the selected alternative island reconfiguration with or without the new road.
The major proponent of Option B selected by MBPC was Fiesta Island Dog Owners (FIDO), a community-based nonprofit with more than 14,000 members dedicated to preserving Fiesta Island's leash-free recreation area. The organization was created in 2006 as a response to a massive development plan unveiled then, which originally proposed removing or moving Fiesta Island’s leash-free dog area.
More than a year ago, Fiesta Island was nominated by the pet-friendly travel website BringFido.com, beating out nine other dog parks from around the country to receive the Reader's Choice Award for “Best Dog Park in America.”
In other action:
• The MBPC unanimously green-lighted a request by SeaWorld San Diego to build a second roller coaster at the marine amusement park, to exceed 100 feet in height and to be named Mako. It is scheduled to open in summer 2020. Mako would be the second roller coaster following the Electric Eel, to open at the popular marine park, which is shifting its emphasis away from animal shows to entertainment with thrill rides and other attractions.
“Rides have always been a part of the quintessential SeaWorld experience,” said Dan Sehlhorst, project manager for SeaWorld. “SeaWorld’s master plan, approved in 2002, supports the 2020 attraction.”
Sehlhorst noted that, since 1998, SeaWorld has been allowed to construct rides over 30 feet in height. “The master plan allows us to have a maximum of four projects between 100 feet and 160 feet in height in the park,” he said adding the new Mako coaster “will have a 143-foot drop, the longest, tallest, fastest dive in California.”