The county of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation issued a Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report for the concept plan of the proposed Alpine County Park. A special meeting of the Alpine Community Planning Group on April 6, discussion and public input was heard before the closing of comments concerning the EIR on April 7, at 5 p.m. After much discussion from the public and between the ACPG members, the following motion carried with 11 votes in favor, 2 absent, and one abstain.
The motion supported the Alpine County Park concept plan subject to the review of the final design once the final EIR is completed. ACPG specifically requested that the county review the sustainability of watering the grass fields, the county work directly with Alpine Fire Protection District and San Diego County Fire on fire safety plans, and that the county review the feasibility of all-way stops at both entrances.
The proposed project encompasses the development of an approximately 25-acre active park that includes potential multi-use turf areas, baseball field, all-wheel area, bike skills area, recreational courts, fitness stations, leash-free dog area, restroom facilities, administrative facility/ranger station, equestrian staging with corral, nature play area, community garden, volunteer pad, picnic areas with shade structures, picnic tables, game table plaza, and trails. The project is located on South Grade Road between Deland Drive and Boulder Oaks Lane.
County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Senior Project Manager Marcus Lubich presented an overview of the park’s design. He said the county understands that the property is part of a larger open space area, Wright’s Field. He said the county worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game to locate the park next to existing development and create one continuous open space area. Lubich said this is consistent with its preserve design guidelines.
“By doing this we are maximizing this continuous open space, minimizing impact to sensitive species and we are reducing direct biological impact,” said Lubich. “Roughly 75% of the property is being preserved and we are developing that 25 acres for a park with active and passive use.”
Lubich said the county expects to finalize its construction documents and EIR by the end of 2021 or early 2022, and begin construction late summer, early fall 2022. He said at this time the county is preparing the EIR and soliciting public on environmental issues that should be analyzed in the report.
After approximately 23 public comments, and a special presentation by the Preserve Alpine’s Heritage Facebook group, only two supported fully supported the current project concept plan. The rest spoke against the park in full, or in portion.
Major concerns were the additional sports fields, noise pollution, wildfire and fire safety, the ability to evacuate, water, the amount of parking, and many wanted a natural park that complemented Wright’s Field.
Julie Simper, PAH Steering Committee chair said the group was formed in 2020, admittedly in opposition to the park plan.
“But we really are developing into something that is for Alpine, an awakening a little bit for our community, our neighbors, and maybe those who took Alpine for granted, to become community advocates. And we are all neighbors,” she said. “Some may see this as a perfect place for building, others see it as a piece of land that is sacred, that is naturally connected to Wright’s Field, which is a special ecological preserve.”
Simper said initially they were happy to see the land purchased, and expected a small park, 10-15 acres, more aligned with the location.
“It is a lovely urban park,” she said. “Not a rural park next to a natural preserve. Animals, nature, sound does not recognize property lines. We are not against a park. We are against this park at this location. We welcome other opportunities, other solutions. We question if this is really the park that Alpine wants.”
Simper said the PAH call to action to the ACGP is to reject the current park design, validate that a considerable number of residents have serious concerns and questions, support a comprehensive survey on proposed park design and scope, explore reasonable alternatives, and harness community resources to find compromise and solutions.
ACPG Chair Travis Lyon said with the county’s purchase of 98 acres, it placed it into conservation and open space, preventing it from commercial or residential development. Over time, they have potentially preserved more than 365 acres in the center of Alpine. He said the county’s purchase makes this area unique and looking at the potential park site would not affect the current beauty found in Wright’s Field.
“I think that it is important to keep that in context, because I think a lot of times when you look at these maps it is hard to visualize what 25 acres looks like in the context of the greater Wright’s Field,” he said.
Lyon said he believes that many of the amenities could be flexible after the completion of the EIR,
“But the idea that the ACPG going back to the drawing board and finding property that has not existed over the past 20 years of searching for a place for a park is going to appear, and that we are going to connect them to trail systems throughout our community that will be walkable, and navigate our terrain, I think it is absolutely ideal and I think it is unrealistic,” he said.
ACPG member Richard Saldano said that the county buying that property was “a steal” and that some big developer could have come in and turned that corner into a development of new homes.
“And there is probably nothing you could do about it,” he said. “As long as they went through the entitlement process, they could make it work.”
Saldano said the land is SR2 zone, two per acre per homes, and could be developed. He said the only reason it has not been done so in the past is the ability to bring water to the area.
ACPG member George Barnett said the prior owner had an active residential subdivision application for 41 estate homes.
“It is only a matter of pricing until someone has the dollars to mitigate a development,” he said.
Lubich said he would be “quite frank” that the likelihood that the county would drop the project and look for a new location is no.
“We have spent a long time trying to find a park plan in Alpine that was suitable, met our criteria, had willing sellers,” he said. “We found that property, we think it is a good place for a park, and our intentions are to move forward with a park in this place.”