About a dozen Alpine residents have joined together under the name Save Wright’s Field in an effort to redirect impending county park development from plans for a skate area and large parking lot toward park development that showcases native growth and land features naturally found in the area.
According to a Dec. 8 email from San Diego County Land Use and environment communications officer Donna Durckel, current plans for the park include “building playing fields, sports courts, fitness stations, nature play equipment, picnic areas, game tables and a horse corral;” native vegetation will be saved wherever possible.
In a Monday community outreach meeting held online, Alpine resident Julie Simper questioned how county planners came to the conclusion that complex amenities are needed or desired in the land that sits adjacent to Wright’s Field, a 230-acre nature preserve that was purchased in 1990 by Back Country Land Trust.
Geologist and Save Wright’s Field organizer Patrick Williams said the original plan county representatives discussed with residents and community stakeholders throughout public meetings featured a small park in a minimally developed setting.
“This was not at all the park we were told we were going to get. It diminishes Alpine’s appeal to take away the doorstep of Wright’s Field,” Williams said.
The amenities “were going to be a staging area for equestrians, shade areas, maybe dog walking and a picnic-playground area for families,” Williams said. He questioned when the narrative changed to a regional park to serve the skate and bike community.
“The skatepark is just a small portion of the park area we’re developing, measuring about an acre, and is one of many amenities we’re building to address the recreational wants and needs of the Alpine community,” Durckel said.
Simper said there is no doubt residents are grateful for a potential park but, “Where is the data showing that these facilities were requested by Alpine residents?”
At a March Alpine Community Planning Group meeting, member Jim Easterling said it was important to “give the county information on what the people of Alpine really want.”
The items up for discussion at the time were unpaved hiking trails and equestrian facilities, whether residents needed another children’s park in addition to the one by Alpine Community Center, and a potential dog park.
About 90 Alpine residents later attended an August meeting where resident Tamara Ham said she worried about “losing a naturalist’s playground” if the park were to include ballfields.
“We have the chocolate lily that is just coming back again because it is not being tormented by concrete, and there’s mockingbirds and hummingbirds, quail and doves— there’s all sorts of wildlife out there and if we just go out and peacefully watch the sunrise or sunset, you can see all the beauty of nature,” said resident Tamara Ham.
Since then, the County introduced a Sept. 23, 2021 meeting by saying
“We’re bringing an all-wheel skate park and bike park to Alpine, and we need your input to determine what features will help make this a best-in-class recreation destination,” a statement that alarmed residents like Angie Lind, who said a destination park would not serve the residents of Alpine.
“I don’t want it to be a destination park, I want it to be part of the community,” Lind said.
Even if the amenities were in keeping with the community of Alpine, she said, there are no sidewalks on South Grade road so “they’re putting in a magnet for kids with no safe way to get there”.
Williams said it is the “right park, wrong place” and in addition to being located on a winding street that might not be safe for children, misses an opportunity to build on the unique elements already found at the site.
“When the Laguna mountains were formed,” Williams explained, “it was a giant mountain range similar to the Andes with large rivers flowing off the mountain, down to San Diego. This particular river bed at Wright’s Field was preserved because its flow was captured by the Sweetwater Valley, 80 million years ago. Everything in the riverbed was preserved in place at Wrights Field and that’s different from any other place in Southern California.”
Simper said she has somewhat “taken it for granted that Alpine would stay natural” and “despite knowing the county had purchased the land, we were under the impression it would be a small community park to serve as an entryway to Wright’s field, maybe with an educational element to showcase all that makes it unique,” Simper said.