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County to acquire additional 95 acres for San Luis Rey River Park

The County of San Diego will soon be acquiring an additional 95 acres for the San Luis Rey River Park.

A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote September 16 approved the purchase of two parcels from Bonsall Land Group, LLC, for the appraised value of $3,282,050.

The supervisors’ August 5 action which set the September 16 hearing date had transferred the appropriations for the project from the general fund to the Capital Outlay Fund, and the August 5 hearing had also declared the purchase categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review.

The future San Luis Rey River Park will include open space areas such as trails, staging areas, and habitat preservation corridors and will also provide active recreation such as ball fields, play areas, and picnic facilities.

The San Luis Rey River Park will cover approximately 1,600 acres, and the linear park will stretch for approximately nine miles, although the boundaries of the river park are yet to be determined and land will be purchased only from willing sellers.

“The park will help preserve the San Luis Rey River and the surrounding sensitive habitat and offer active and passive recreation opportunity,” said county supervisor Bill Horn.

In July 2005 the county appropriated $5 million for land acquisition for the river park, and the county’s 2006-07 budget provided an additional $3 million. The county had previously approved the acquisition of 405 acres for the park.

The September 16 purchase approval is for two parcels located south of State Route 76 and contiguous to a 147-acre parcel purchased in 2008. “This property has significant biological resources,” Horn said.

The 95-acre site has gently sloping topography and is entirely within the San Luis Rey River’s 100-year floodplain. It provides wetland habitat for the least Bell’s vireo, the southwestern willow flycatcher, and the southwestern arroyo toad and is within the draft North County Multiple Species Conservation Program pre-approved mitigation area.

In addition to the purchase cost, which was determined by an independent appraiser, the county will incur one-time expenses of $9,300 for title and escrow fees, $14,000 for county staff costs required to process and complete the transaction, and $100,000 for one-time stewardship expenses such as erosion control, vegetation management, fencing, and signage. The one-time costs were included in the August 5 appropriations.

The ongoing annual stewardship and monitoring cost is estimated at $15,000, and an additional $3,255 for fixed charge assessments will also be an ongoing cost to the county.

The county’s Department of Parks and Recreation will seek funding for those ongoing costs in the county’s 2010-2011 budget.

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