Village News Reporter
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors set a Dec. 14 hearing on the potential purchase of a 49-acre parcel which would be used for the San Luis Rey River Park.
The supervisors voted 3-0 Nov. 16, with Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer absent, to set the Dec. 14 hearing date and to direct the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors to provide the appropriate notice.
The county would purchase the land from the California Department of Transportation for the appraised value of $2,937,000 including a $25,000 non-refundable deposit the county has already paid. If the purchase is approved Dec. 14, the supervisors would also find the acquisition to be categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review, authorize the execution of escrow and other documents necessary to complete the purchase, and adopt a resolution declaring that the land will be used for a public purpose as future park land.
The San Luis Rey River Park boundaries are yet to be determined and land will be acquired only from willing sellers. The river park will stretch for nine miles and encompass approximately 1,600 acres, (including both Rio Prado Park and Bonsall Community Park). The park will provide open space areas including trails, staging areas, and habitat preservation and will also include active recreation land such as ball fields, play areas, and picnic facilities.
The county supervisors approved the master plan for the river park in September 2008, and that action also certified the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report for the master plan. The county has acquired 717 acres for the river park.
The 49-acre property Caltrans owns is directly off State Route 76 and adjacent to land already acquired for the river park. Caltrans has declared the property surplus, and the property has been appraised at $60,000 per acre or $2,937,000.
Because the property is adjacent to the 68-acre site the county acquired in 2009 and plans to use for the development of Rio Prado Park, (adjacent to the Rancho Monserate 55+ community), the acquisition would allow the two properties to be combined and improve direct access to Rio Prado Park from Highway 76 as well as expand the range of recreational amenities at the park.
The specific amenities will be determined following public engagement, design, and environmental analyses; initial surveys conducted in 2019 indicated public interest in multi-use sports fields, an equestrian staging area and a dog park.
The county entered into an option agreement with Caltrans on Aug. 31 which included the $25,000 non-refundable deposit. Caltrans will require a 15-year deed restriction (from the date of acquisition) limiting the use of the property to a public purpose although under the California Park Preservation Act the county Department of Parks and Recreation acquisition would be protected as public parkland in perpetuity. The resolution would declare that the property would be used for a public purpose for at least 15 years.
The county’s one-time cost of $3,162,000 will also include $50,100 for staff time and appraisal reports, $7,900 for closing and title costs, and $167,000 for initial stewardship which will include signage, access control measures, and vegetation management. The estimated annual management cost including ongoing stewardship and supervision of the park is $91,750. The construction and maintenance costs for park improvements will be determined in the future.