The Activism that Shaped San Dieguito Lagoon and River Park Into Today's Environmental Treasures: Lessons for our Future

Honoring the Activism that Shaped our Lagoon, River and Watershed

Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to honor a true environmental hero, Diane Coombs, as we dedicated the Diane B. Coombs Watershed Trail along the headwaters of the San Dieguito River, on land protected by the Volcan Mountain Foundation. 

The $90 Million Restoration of Our Lagoon: Diane was the first and long-time Executive Director of the San Dieguito River Park JPA. She hired me as a young attorney to serve as the JPA's lawyer, as the San Dieguito River Park took shape, along with the Coast to Crest Trail from Volcan Mountain to Del Mar. I was privileged to be the JPA lawyer who guided Coombs' successful efforts to secure the $90 million in SONGS mitigation money that resulted in the restoration of our lagoon. Believe me, there was stiff competition for that money, and we owe so much to Diane for making our lagoon and trails what they are today.

Our Community Plan, adopted in 1976, describes a Lagoon that was in a sorry state:  It was closed off to the ocean, with no tidal flow since the early 1940's. Overflow of treated sewage effluent into the lagoon had long created serious eutrophication and mosquito problems and odorous conditions, and the lagoon suffered seriously degraded water quality. 

What turned the lagoon into the environmental treasure we enjoy today? It was the work of a strong cadre of local activists and regional allies: not only Diane Coombs and the JPA, but also folks like former mayor Jacqueline Winterer, Nancy Weare, Alice Goodkind and John Gillies; our nascent Lagoon Committee, and many more. Even the Army Corps of Engineers played a role in combatting the Fair Board's actions that degraded the wetlands and lagoon

Former Mayor Jacqueline Winterer is another environmental hero to whom we owe much. 

Last September, at the dedication of the new Ranger Station by the San Dieguito Lagoon, I had the privilege to speak to honor another key pioneer who has devoted decades of her life to the environment and our lagoon, former Del Mar Mayor Jacqueline Winterer. See the short video here.

Del Mar is the beautiful place it is today because of the tireless efforts of these and other citizen activists and regional allies. Powerhouse Park was slated for a big restaurant and parking. The Norh Bluff Reserve, Crest Canyon, and the Anderson Canyon open space were all scheduled for condo developments. These development projects were stopped because of Del Mar's trademark brand of citizen activisim - fighting for our environmental values in negotiations, at the ballot box and in court. This is our legacy, and our roadmap for the future.

Current Environmental Battles:

How We Can Achieve Our Goals

Today. we face issues of comparable importance - including protecting our beach and bluff from NCTD's proposed 6 foot chain link raillroad fencing, getting safe and legal crossings across the track and to the beach, and, most importantly, getting the tracks off our sensitive bluffs so that we can protect our bluffs and beachAll five of our City Council members, including me, endorsed a unified position against the NCTD fencing. Read the letter here.

Our Council remains unanimous in its commitment to fight NCTD's fencing at the Surface Transportation Board. We remain committed to working with local residents and regional allies, including the Coastal Commission, the Surfrider Foundation, and Friends of Del Mar Bluffs, on these important issues. The way to achieve Del Mar's key environmental goals is not through grandstanding. It is through smart, sustained efforts to fight for what is right, to build alliances with local and regional allies, and to use the tools available to us - negotiation, coalition building, the ballot box, and, where necessary, litigation - to protect the environmental treasures that are so important to our quality of life.

Every day is Earth Day!


Photo below: Volunteers from WildCoast, the Lagoon Committee, and other groups, play a big role in removing invasive species, planting native species, and maintaining the trails in the Del Mar area, including River Path Del Mar and the Coast to Crest trail. I'm a regular participant in these volunteer efforts, like the one below in April 2022.

Paid for by Dwight Worden for Council 2022

ID#1453720,Tom McGreal, Treasurer