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Supervisors approve San Luis Rey River Park acquisition

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

San Diego County will be purchasing a 49-acre parcel which will become part of the future San Luis Rey River Park.

A 3-0 county Board of Supervisors vote Wednesday, Dec. 14, with Terra Lawson‑Remer and Jim Desmond not at the dais when the vote was taken, approved the purchase. The county will pay the California Department of Transportation $2,937,000 including a $25,000 non-refundable deposit which had already been paid. The supervisors found the acquisition to be categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review, authorized the execution of escrow and other documents necessary to complete the purchase and adopted 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. 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 765 acres for the river park.

The property the county will acquire once the escrow process has been completed is directly off state Route 76 and adjacent to land already acquired for the river park. Caltrans 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, the acquisition will 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 Aug. 31, which included the $25,000 non-refundable deposit. Caltrans requires a 15‑year deed restriction beginning with the date of acquisition which limits 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 approved as part of the Dec. 14 action declares that the property will be used for a public purpose for at least 15 years.

The county’s one-time cost of $3,162,000 also includes $50,100 for staff time and appraisal reports, $7,900 for closing and title costs and $167,000 for initial stewardship including 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.


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