A project to enhance and extend existing beach fencing – separating humans and canines from environmentally sensitive areas – has been proposed at Dog Beach.
Known as the Ocean Beach Estuary Project, the idea was pitched by City park ranger Araceli Dominguez to Ocean Beach Town Council at the group’s last meeting of the year in October.
“She is going to be presenting on a plan to improve habitat protection and trail enhancement in the coastal scrub and sand dunes along the San Diego River,” said OBTC president Mark Winkie.
Trail enhancements are proposed to be constructed by the Urban Corps of San Diego County, a nonprofit serving young adults ages 18-26 helping provide them with paid job training, support services, and a second chance to earn a high school diploma.
Characterizing the environmental-protection project as “long overdue,” Dominguez said, “This whole section of the river is under Mission Beach’s Master Plan, not Ocean Beach’s. I want to focus on the wetlands, emphasizing Smiley Lagoon wetlands, which are not the same as the beach.”
Defining wetlands as low-lying, periodically submerged areas, Dominguez pointed out they are highly sensitive to human/canine intrusion.
“We all benefit from wetlands, which contain about 35% of all endangered and threatened animal and plant species, which depend on wetlands in some way, shape or form,” she said, adding,“Marsh birds are only found in this particular habitat which provides a nursery and breeding grounds for fish, shellfish and waterfowl. It’s estimated that more than 50% of wetlands have been irreversibly altered or destroyed. Only by working together can this habitat be protected.”
Dominguez pointed out environmentally sensitive habitat adjacent to Dog Beach has been disturbed by humans and transient encampments, as well as having been polluted by dog feces that ultimately finds its way into the ocean.
“More than 259 piles of dog feces were recently counted in one eight-hour shift, and those feces contaminates water, posing a threat to our health and our dog’s health,” she noted.
The park ranger said the solution proposed is to upgrade and extend existing fencing in the area, some of which is in disrepair, with sand fencing specially designed for coastal areas.
“You can see through the slats, and animals can still go in and out from it,” Dominguez said adding, “It’s rather less costly than other fencing we’ve looked at.”
The City’s habitat protection plan for Dog Beach was previously approved by OB Planning Board whose vice chair, Kevin Hastings, commented: “It’s adding wood slats to prevent people and dogs from crossing the existing rope barriers into areas that are already off-limits. People and dogs can still access the entire sandy beach, including from paths crossing over the dunes. Dog Beach is massive, so I don’t see anything controversial about keeping people out of the bird habitat and vegetation.”
Winkie questioned how the trail habitat enhancement would be paid for and maintained, and was told there are numerous grants the City intends to apply for to implement the project and that it would be funded by any and all means necessary, including fundraising.
“This is a very popular project and there is not really anybody against it,” concluded Winkie. “It’s really important to have the funding to keep the fencing up, and not let it go into disrepair so it becomes a bit of an eyesore.”