Life returns to San Dieguito River Park after fire

SOLANA BEACH — During a presentation at the March 25 City Council meeting, Dick Bobertz displayed a picture of a charred sign that read, “San Dieguito River Park End of Trail.”
“That was kind of what some people were afraid of,” said Bobertz, executive director of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority. “The decimation was just so complete.”
Bobertz was providing an update on the park about 18 months after the Witch Creek Fire roared down the river valley, taking out nearly everything in its path.
The adobe walls of the recently restored Sikes Adobe remained intact so the 1870s era farmhouse can be rebuilt again. But the rest of the building, the JPA office and all trucks, equipment and infrastructure were destroyed.
Bobertz said they lost benches, kiosks, miles of post-and-rail fencing and almost a dozen bridges ranging from 20 feet to 70 feet long.
“Anything that was wood was gone — evaporated,” he said.
“But the good news is, little by little, hope springs eternal, and here’s hope springing eternal,” Bobertz said as he showed a slide of a green sprout emerging from a tree branch. “Things that you wouldn’t think would come back have come back, and when you’re out there now you see a lot of green.”
Bobertz said every bridge has been reconstructed, all but one section of one trail is reopened and within two months construction should start on a new office. Most importantly, he said, the habitat that provides protection for endangered species that call the river park home is “coming back nicely.”
JPA insurance and funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency fully covered the estimated $2.5 million in damages, Bobertz said.
The San Dieguito River Park is a 55-mile corridor that stretches from the ocean in Del Mar to Volcan Mountain north of Julian. The JPA, now in its 20th year, was created by Del Mar, Solana Beach, Escondido, Poway and the city and county of San Diego to improve and maintain the river park.

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