Rose Creek needs more friends and volunteers; advocates want waterway made into open-space park
Rose Creek has become a dumping ground for trash, as well as a haven for homeless encampments. / Photo by Dave Schwab
Rose Creek is a San Diego urban stream draining into Mission Bay, which flows north-south through Rose Canyon and San Clemente Canyon and their tributary canyons. / Photo by Dave Schwab
Rose Creek isn’t getting the attention it deserves.
At least not according to local environmentalists, who insist restoring and maintaining the wetlands environment there is key to preserving the health of Mission Bay.
“Rose Creek is an amazing place to visit, there’s great birds, plants, and all we’re asking is for the city to take great responsibility for the area,” said Karin Zirk, spokesperson for Friends of Rose Creek, a nonprofit whose vision is for lower Rose Creek to be turned it into an open-space park providing recreational and educational opportunities.
“Rose Creek is where land meets nature,” pointed out Paula Gandolfo, a PB planner and community activist and gardener. “As we, man, increase in numbers, we’re having a bigger impact on nature. And this is the watershed where it’s happening here in San Diego.”
“Rose Creek is a tremendous asset to Mission Bay,” noted Kristen Victor, who is spearheading the drive to turn Pacific Beach into a full-blown EcoDistrict promoting environmental sustainability. “I believe that future opportunities (with Rose Creek) are just flowing.”
Rose Creek is a San Diego urban stream draining into Mission Bay, which flows north-south through Rose Canyon and San Clemente Canyon and their tributary canyons. The Rose Creek watershed comprises about 36 square miles. Rose Creek, however, was diverted and channelized in the first half of the 20th century. It now enters Mission Bay through an artificial channel.
The wetland where the creek historically entered Mission Bay is now known as the Kendall Frost Marsh, and is studied and managed by UC San Diego. The Rose Creek Watershed Alliance was created in 2005 to create a plan to improve the watershed. The plan was accepted by the City of San Diego in 2008.
Friends of Rose Creek conducts periodic cleanups in the waterway. The city has applied for a permit to clear vegetation from the lower creek channel, in an effort to prevent flooding.
Friends of Rose Creek has a “game plan” for restoring the luster of Rose Creek that includes:
- Maintaining and enhancing the existing linear natural park along Rose Creek between Rose Canyon and Marian Bear Open Space Parks in the north and Mission Bay Park in the south.
- Connecting the entire Rose Creek Watershed into one City administrative unit in order to manage the area in the way nature functions.
- Finding the best and safest ways to link Rose Creek waterway with the new trolley stop to be constructed at Balboa Avenue nearby, by improving freeway crossings in the area making them safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and wildlife.
- Eventual creation of a wetlands interpretive and research center in partnership with UC San Diego.
- Aiding county, state and federal funding sources that are paying for habitat restoration and passive recreational amenities, along with stormwater projects including water-quality improvements.
On a recent tour of a section of Rose Creek in Pacific Beach, Zirk, Gandolfo and Victor walked the cluttered and clogged waterway, whose problems are self-evident. The waterway is a dumping ground for trash, as well as a haven for homeless encampments.
“There’s trash, lots of it, including car batteries,” noted Gandolfo during the tour.
“[Friends of Rose Creek] do two big cleanups a year with I love a Clean San Diego,” said Zirk. “During the past 15 years, our average haul has been four tons of trash a year. Some years, we might pull in six tons.”
Zirk addressed a different problem with the creek. “The whole area is full of invasive plant species, which constrict the waterway and prevents the water from flowing,” she said.
Gandolfo noted the waterway is increasingly popular for people. “With an increase in the volume (of people) comes an increase in the waste,” she said. “And an increase in waste includes biological waste, e coli bacteria (from human waste), which ends up in this waterway and eventually, out in the ocean.”
“So far, the city has tried to say they’re not responsible for this trash in Rose Creek,” said Zirk, adding there are presently only two trash cans serviced solely by volunteers for people to dispose of their trash along the waterway’s PB section.
“It needs to be more accessible,” said Victor of what has to be done to improve Rose Creek, especially given that the new trolley station will undoubtedly increase the volume of both motorized and non-motorized traffic in the area.
“It’s been in the PB Community Plan since the early ’90s that Rose Creek should be parkland,” contends Zirk. “The city is saying the reason why it can’t be parkland is because it’s in the Stormwater and Transportation Department. But that department doesn’t engage with the community, whereas parks and rec would engage with the community.”
In the final analysis, Zirk said the creek, and volunteers working to preserve it, need help.
“Won’t you join us?” she asked.