San Diego River Park

provided by San Diego River Park Foundation


Imagine a greenbelt of open space, recreation and community facilities, trails, cultural history sites, and interpretive signs stretching from the mountains near Julian to the Pacific Ocean along the 52-mile long San Diego River. Many members of our community have held the dream of this greenbelt, known as the San Diego River Park, for years. As envisioned, it would consist of a system of community and regional parks linked together by trails, functioning wildlife habitat, and clean water. It would also celebrate the river and its role in our community for the 10,000 or more years that people have lived along it. The River Park has recently taken several large steps to becoming a reality.

On September 13, 2002, State Assembly Bill 2156 was signed by Governor Davis, establishing the San Diego River Conservancy. AB 2156 went into effect on January 1, 2003, and created the eighth state-chartered conservancy in the State of California, and the first in San Diego County. Governor Davis also announced $12 million of State bond money has been dedicated to begin this effort.

    This act recognizes that the San Diego River is of statewide significance for its natural and cultural resources. Other conservancies include the Coastal Conservancy and the Lake Tahoe Conservancy.

    The legislation was authored by Assemblymember Christine Kehoe and coauthored by Assemblymember Howard Wayne and Senator Dede Alpert. More than 100 people were in attendance for the signing ceremony, which took place on the banks of the river in Mission Valley. Chairman of the Board for the San Diego River Park Foundation, Michael Beck, was on hand at the ceremony representing the many community groups and individuals who worked on and supported this legislation.

    The San Diego River Park Foundation is a nonprofit organization formed to support the establishment of the River Park and to assist the many non-governmental organizations which have come together to work on this effort. These groups have formed the San Diego River Coalition to regularly meet and discuss these issues. In the past year, a Conceptual Plan for the River Park has been completed. This Plan presents a community-based vision for the River Park including goals, strategies and guidelines for its development.

A river runs through it

    The vision is a bold one which begins in the mountains of eastern San Diego County. It captures the pristine beauty of the river as it runs through deep mountain gorges complete with 100 foot waterfalls and magnificent scenery. The river runs into El Capitan Reservoir. Below the Reservoir, is the wonderful El Monte Valley and the community of Lakeside. Lakeside is one of the oldest communities in San Diego and has an important stretch of the river, which has been a subject of community discussions for many years.

    The river next runs into the City of Santee, which since its establishment has included plans for a river park, including the terrific Mast Park. As the river leaves Santee it enters Mission Trails Regional Park, an immense open space preserve within the heart of the metropolitan area. The river then winds through Mission Gorge and Mission Valley before entering its estuary in Mission Bay Park and the Pacific Ocean at Dog Beach.

    The land surrounding the river is both in public and private ownership. It contains dozens of threatened or endangered wildlife species. The river's water has some pollution concerns and there are many other issues to consider.

    To explore these policy issues related to establishing the River Park, Mayor Dick Murphy has formed the San Diego River Park Alliance. This group includes local, state, and federal officials, the Helix Water District (the owner of a significant portion of the river), and the Executive Director of the San Diego River Park Foundation, representing the coalition of community groups that has come together on this effort. The City of San Diego has begun the process of building upon the Conceptual Plan to create a Master Plan for the portion of the River Park in the City. For details about this process, upcoming community events, and other information about the San Diego River Park, contact the San Diego River Park Foundation at or 619-297-7380.