County applies for $350,000 grant for SLR River Park

The County of San Diego will be applying for a $350,000 Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program grant to fund the acquisition of an additional 20.3 acres for the future San Luis Rey River Park.

According to County Supervisor Bill Horn’s office, the property is high quality riparian habitat, located 500 feet east of State Route 76, just north of the Old Bonsall Bridge along the eastern bank of the San Luis Rey River.

A 4-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote July 9, with Greg Cox engaged in a California Coastal Commission hearing, authorized county Department of Parks and Recreation director Brian Albright or his designee to conduct all negotiations to apply for the grant and execute any agreements to accept, if awarded, the grant from the California Natural Resources Agency.

The supervisors’ action also found that no new circumstances would require an update to the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report for the San Luis Rey River Park master plan; the PEIR was originally adopted in 2008 and last amended in August 2011.

“It will be hopefully another good addition to the San Luis Rey River Park,” Albright said.

In 1999, the state legislature established the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program (EEMP) which provides up to $7 million of grants annually to governmental agencies or non-profit organizations for projects which mitigate the environmental impacts of new or modified transportation facilities.

Eligible projects include acquisition or enhancement of resource lands which mitigate the loss of resource lands within or near right-of-way acquired for transportation improvements. The widening of State Route 76 qualifies the San Luis Rey River Park for the grant.

The California Natural Resources Agency released this year’s EEMP guidelines and applications in April. Applications for the current round of EEMP grants are due July 30.

The appraised value of the land is $825,000. If the county receives the grant it would use Multiple Species Conservation Program funding for the remainder of the cost to acquire the parcel. Subsequent Board of Supervisors action will be necessary to appropriate the grant funding and to approve the purchase agreement for the parcel.

The exact boundaries of the future San Luis Rey River Park are undetermined, as land will be purchased only from willing sellers. The park will stretch for approximately nine miles and encompass approximately 1,600 acres.

“It takes a while to accumulate that,” said Supervisor Bill Horn.

The county has already acquired more than 500 acres. The San Luis Rey River Park will include open space, a trails network, and active recreation.

“Still working on the park,” Horn said. “It’s happening.”

Horn compared the effort to develop the San Luis Rey River Park to the Fallbrook Sports Park which was funded and developed over a period of years. “Takes time of do this,” he said.

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