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The original cost estimate to construct the trail was $650,000, but has swelled to more than $3.7 million. Photo by Steve Puterski
The original cost estimate to construct the trail was $650,000, but has swelled to more than $3.7 million. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad council holds plans for Agua Hedionda Lagoon trail

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council agreed to hold plans for a proposed 1.4-mile trail at the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon during its Nov. 16 meeting.

The long-discussed trail was planned to head west starting from Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation’s Discovery Center before looping back.

However, several complications surfaced including the cost rising nearly six times over the previous estimate, along with SDG&E, the foundation and tribes all declining to support the trail in its current form, according to Kyle Lancaster, the city’s director of Parks and Recreation.

Also, parking concerns and a lack of connectivity to the west were also raised, while other challenges include some of the land being designated hardline preserve in perpetuity.

“The scope had to be reduced considerably to stay within Hub Park,” Lancaster said. “Encroachments had to be minimized and access to access roads minimized.”

The original estimate was pegged at about $650,000 to construct the trail, but due to increases in encumbrances, construction, habitat mitigation costs and avoiding access roads, the cost of the project has swelled to more than $3.7 million, according to Lancaster. Habitat mitigation and working around access roads represent a bulk of the increased costs.

Lancaster said it was also likely the city would be responsible for between $13,500 and $39,000 in annual costs for long-term habitat management and annual trail maintenance.

The other entities, meanwhile, declined to support the trail for several reasons. The foundation did not want to share its parking lot with the city as the foundation board said it would interrupt daily programming for students and others who visit the center.

SDG&E, which owns the land, cannot allow the city to use access roads on the land due to regulations from the California Public Utilities Commission and its own policies, Lancaster said. Also, SDG&E declined to allow the city use for parking and a trailhead at the strawberry fields.

As for the tribes, the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians told staff the land is of significant value to tribal communities and expressed a “strong desire” to preserve the landscape in its current form, according to the staff report.

As a result, the council opted to hit pause on the issue and directed staff to continue working with stakeholders.

“We are not ready for prime time with this,” Councilman Peder Norby said, adding it gives staff more time to speak with those entities and see if bikes can be part of the plan. “I want to make sure robust bicycle parking is part of the picture.”

Mayor Matt Hall said the property has always been a challenge, saying other options such as more trails at Veterans Park and accelerating a three-mile coastal park would probably take less time.

Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel said the concerns from the stakeholders, especially the tribes, were the reasons she opted to delay the proposal so staff can work through those issues.