Archives: Current Issues 2006
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RIVER PARK TRAIL STILL AT RISK

The San Diego Polo Club has been ordered to stop grading and using a public trail as their horse exercise track. However, the Hearing Officer left the door open for approval of a grading permit or site development plan to do so. We believe every Friend must be ready to protest either option when the time comes.
BACKGROUND

In 1986 the City of San Diego leased property on the north side of the San Dieguito River east of I-5 to the then Fairbanks Ranch Polo Club for equestrian uses. Despite a number of concerns from environmental groups, the City found no potential for significant environmental impacts.  Part of the rationale was that the “existing pedestrian/equestrian path located adjacent to the river channel would not be affected by the project and would continue to provide a pathway for pedestrians and equestrians.” The lease was also specifically revised to provide a setback from the river channel for the public trail. (See Map below for identification of Public Trail in red excluded from the Lease.)

enlargement


Despite this the Polo Club has taken over the trail to use as their horse exercise track during the polo season. “Taking over” has meant grading, grubbing and maintaining the trail as a track for exercising polo horses, often in strings of six across.  Although the Polo Club has said that this does not preclude the public from using, we disagree. 

At stake is the preservation the San Dieguito River Park’s 55-mile long public trail, providing walking, hiking and bicycling (as well as equestrian) opportunities from the coast at Del Mar to the mountains in Julian.

Also at stake is the protection of environmentally sensitive lands.  The Polo Club has graded up to the river’s edge. Municipal code requires a 100-foot buffer as well as appropriate measures to prevent erosion and to stop sediment and pollutants from entering the water.

In 1986 the Fish and Wildlife Service, one of the concerned environmental groups noted above, was told, “No grading would be required for the proposed project.”   Fish and Wildlife had asked the City to approve (only) projects that …provide greater protection (than the Polo Club project) of the high biological values of the San Dieguito floodplain.  Preservation of floodplains not only retains wildlife habitat, but also provides recreational areas, aesthetic views, groundwater recharge and flood protection.”  We agree.

The Hearing Officer fined the Club over $24,000 for past violations of the Municipal Code and gave the Polo Club a February 28 deadline in which to file a permit for grading or a new site development plan.   We will keep you informed of the Club’s plans and ask for your help in preventing the Club from infringing any further upon preserved and protected open space.

Ann Gardner


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