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FCPG calls for Hwy. 76 entrance to Rio Prado Park

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The planned San Luis Rey River Park is primarily within the Bonsall Community Planning Area, but part of the park master plan area is within the Fallbrook Community Planning Area so the Fallbrook Community Planning Group may make recommendations about portions of the park.

The Fallbrook planning group recommended Aug. 23 that the main entrance to Rio Prado Park, which is part of the planned San Luis Rey River Park, be from State Route 76.

The planning group approved the recommendation on a 13-0 vote with Jacqui Kaiser and J.J. Neese absent. “We are recommending that the county pave the main entrance to Rio Prado Park off of 76 and use Dulin Road as an alternative or emergency route,” said Fallbrook Community Planning Group Chair Eileen Delaney.

“It was beautiful to see the process operate the way it’s supposed to,” said Stephani Baxter, who chairs the Parks and Recreation Public Facilities Committee of the Fallbrook Community Planning Group.

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 San Diego County Board of 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 now acquired 765 acres for the river park.

The most recent county acquisition was approved by the Board of Supervisors in December 2022. That 49-acre parcel was purchased from the California Department of Transportation and is directly off State Route 76. The land is adjacent to a 68-acre site the county acquired for the river park in 2009.

The most recent 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 widening of State Route 76 from two lanes to four between South Mission Road and Interstate 15 required acquisition of land or temporary easements for approximately 30 parcels, including the land which was previously Fabulous Horse Farm, which was known as Faubus Farms until the facility was purchased in late 2008.

The negotiations to purchase Fabulous Horse Farm included acquisition of a remainder parcel not needed for the highway widening. The structures on the remainder parcel were scheduled for demolition with the remainder parcel being used as mitigation land for sensitive habitat purposes; the 2017 Lilac Fire burned those buildings.

Ironically, the planned river park helped stop the spread of the Lilac Fire; firefighting crews and equipment operators banded together at the location and successfully made a stand while other parts of the San Luis Rey River Park were used to land helicopters dropping off California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection hand crews.

Initially, the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation anticipated an entrance to Rio Prado Park off of Dulin Road. Rancho Monserate Country Club residents have expressed concern about the traffic, especially when multiple vehicles leave after an event is completed. Although Dulin Road is a public road, the Rancho Monserate travelways are private. Rancho Monserate Country Club residents often cross Dulin Road to access features of the senior community.

“It would have been a disaster safety-wise if the county didn’t purchase the Faubus property,” Baxter said.

Many Rancho Monserate residents expressed their preference for Dulin Road being used only as an alternate emergency access route during the Aug. 23 planning group meeting.

The Department of Parks and Recreation planner who gave the presentation on Rio Prado Park also gave a presentation on the San Luis Rey River Park master plan, which was a non-voting item for the planning group, and members of Greater Fallbrook’s equestrian community provided input.

“I was just a proud Fallbrookian that night to see so many people come together,” Baxter said.

The San Luis Rey River Park also includes Bonsall Community Park near the intersection of State Route 76 and Camino Del Rey. That park will total 63 acres including 55 acres to be developed.

The amenities will include soccer fields, baseball or softball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, a skate park, a bicycle skills park, playgrounds, multi-use pathways, picnic areas, a dog park and restrooms.

If funding permits, the initial construction contract will include a photovoltaic energy system utilizing carport roofs. Completion of Bonsall Community Park is currently scheduled for March 2025. Construction on the Rio Prado Park improvements will begin after Bonsall Community Park is completed.

“Rio Prado Park is a park that is a few years away,” Baxter said.

 

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