SAN MARCOS — Officials in San Marcos have announced the opening of a new park at the retired South Lake Reservoir, an effort nearly 20 years in the making.
The new South Lake Park off Sunstone Drive, previously inaccessible, has been transformed into a 10-acre space with a mile-long hiking trail around the reservoir and various access points for fishing with an impressive view.
The lake, currently filled with runoff water, and its surrounding areas are home to freshwater fish, the rare Western pond turtle, waterfowl like cormorants, gallinules, various species of ducks and other wildlife, including quail, deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, bobcats and coyotes.
Vallecitos Water District and city officials celebrated the park’s grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 19.
“After years of planning, we are so proud to finally cut the ribbon on this much-anticipated community park and welcome residents to this special location,” said Mayor Rebecca Jones. “Today is a shining example of what is possible when you persevere and hold true to your vision.”
Plans for South Lake Park have been in the works since 2005 when the city first entered into a rental agreement with the Vallecitos Water District to rent the property for $1 per year for 50 years. However, the project quickly faced difficulties that delayed its progress.
The project hit a major roadblock in 2010 with the loss of state redevelopment funds, leaving the city short on anticipated project dollars. In the following years, drought shrunk the lake to nearly half its original size.
By 2016, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the city had spent around $3 million on the project — including $1 million for the purchase of land next to the lake — with years still to go before it would open.
Since then, the city has had to drastically downsize its plans for the park, which originally included a wish list of items such as an amphitheater, boat rentals and an overlook area.
The man-made lake along South Twin Oaks Valley Road was built in 1959 as a local drinking water source but has been decommissioned since 1984. It will continue to serve as an emergency water storage reservoir, according to officials.
“When the district’s need for the reservoir ended, the visionary leaders on the City Council and Water Board had the wonderful idea to open this space up to the public,” said Vallecitos Water District President Jim Hernandez. “Thanks to them, and all those that came after, we can now enjoy this beautiful retreat in our community.”
South Lake Park is located at 975 Sunstone Drive. For more information about the park and its flora and fauna, visit san-marcos.net.