The county of San Diego welcomes robust community engagement on the future Alpine Community Park. There has been a great deal of dialogue and opinions shared which we value and consider as park decisions are made. Unfortunately, there has also been substantial misinformation about the park, planning process, and acquisition of the land where the park will be built.
When the land acquisition was approved by the County Board of Supervisors in 2018, an action that was overseen by Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, the board letter stated that a portion of the park should be earmarked for active recreation. So, of the 98 acres, we’ve identified roughly 26 acres for active recreation, in an area that is easy to access from roads and near existing development. This aligns with the terms dictated in that acquisition approval, while allowing us to preserve the rest of the land as open space.
This parcel of land comes with a lot of history involving multiple landowners, studies and visions for use. We are familiar with the history, and with how things have changed over time. We feel fortunate we were able to purchase the property when it became available, which put an end to our decades-long search for a feasible public park site for all residents to enjoy.
When we shared our concept plan for the park, it contained features that were requested by the Alpine community. These preferences were shared with us in a variety of ways, including through public meetings and surveys, meetings with Alpine civic leaders, emails and phone calls. A Public Outreach Summary can be found on our website.
While some amenities may not be attractive to some people, they are essential to others. When we build a park, we design it to match specific needs of the entire community – in this case, Alpine – and to ensure there are options for people of all ages, interests and abilities. We also make sure they are in areas that are easy to access, maintain, patrol and protect. Parks are public amenities, and they provide valuable and safe recreation opportunities that support community connectivity, health and wellness.
PRELIMINARY VS FINAL DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
People are under the wrong assumption that the park design is complete. The concept plan was a first step in a long process to build the park. The concept plan is the basis for a robust environmental review and also coincides with a traffic study being completed. The results of these studies will be available this summer, and they will have some impact on the final design of the park. When complete, we will post them on our website, in addition to sharing them with residents who’ve contacted us, and with the editors of the Alpine Sun.
Currently on our website is a Notice of Preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Report – we encourage residents to review the documents and to provide comments related to any environmental concerns by April 7, 2021. Please note that analysis will include thorough scientific studies of the following (among other things): Air quality, biological and cultural resources, geology and soils, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use and planning, noise, transportation and traffic, utilities and service systems, wildfire and other potential impacts. Again, the results of these studies could change the park design, but the concept that we shared was a necessary step in the process to initiate these tests.
We would now like to respond to the Open Letter that was posted by the Alpine Sun on behalf of the Greater Alpine Fire Safe Council Board of Directors.
DPR will complete a hydrology study. Water reclamation is a top priority, and our goal is to keep water costs low, with limited impacts to the environment. We will comply with all water efficiency requirements outlined in the Water Conservation in Landscaping Ordinance, and, if groundwater is proposed, we will comply with the Groundwater Ordinance as we review the cumulative impacts of drilling a well to surrounding areas. Plants and trees that are added to the park will be native and drought-tolerant – able to thrive in Alpine on little to no water. Artificial turf is also being considered, where appropriate, to further reduce water costs.
DPR will continue to work closely with San Diego County Fire and Alpine Fire Department to discuss potential fire risks, safeguards and emergency service needs. We are coordinating with them as we prepare a fire operations assessment, and appreciate the suggestions outlined in the Open Letter which will be shared with them in future conversations. Many of our more rural, inland parks have plans in place to protect them from in-park wildfire risks. Where BBQs and fire rings are present, and during periods when high winds and extreme heat are also present, Red Flag Warning protocol is enacted immediately; signs are posted, amenities are roped off, people with reservations for areas with these features are contacted, and rangers increase patrols to ensure the property is fire safe. We are working closely with the local Fire Department to ensure the park is designed to their needs and to potentially serve as a shelter-in-place facility during wildfires.
We agree that safe ingress, egress and access are key. We are working closely with the Department of Public Works as we conduct a traffic study, which will identify traffic calming and pedestrian safety measures and may include crosswalks, bike lanes, speed limits and other road updates. The results of this study will be shared in the Environmental Impact Report, available later this summer.
Once the results of the traffic study are available, and recommendations are made, our stance is to take an even more conservative approach by enacting additional safety measures both in and around our parks. This will involve ongoing coordination with the Department of Public Works. When the park opens, we will track the success of these measures, and enact new ones, as appropriate.
Thank you for your interest, time and investment in the park process. We will continue to post updates to our website, sdparks. org, as new information becomes available.
Geiszler is Marketing & Public Outreach Manager for County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation