A Busy, Consequential Year for ReWild Mission Bay

In no small measure, 2019 was a big year for the ReWild Mission Bay campaign. Over the last 12 months we’ve built some political acumen in spite of setbacks at City Hall, and we continue to add partners to one of the most impressive conservation coalitions in San Diego.

In fact, during in the last six weeks we’ve added Beautiful P.B., the Community Congregational Church of Pacific Beach, the Clairemont-based Islamic Center of San Diego, Kumeyaay Preservation Heritage Committee, Montgomery-Gibbs Environmental Coalition, the Pacific Beach Christian Church Disciples of Christ, and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council Environmental Caucus (including long-time ReWild supporters Unite Here! Local 30 and AFT Guild Local 1931), as our coalition of community members gets bigger and bigger.

Working with neighbors, concerned San Diegans, our ReWild Coalition partners, and with considerable help from Citizens Coordinate for Century III (C3), we were able to craft a new land-use plan for a revitalized Mission Bay Park that fully incorporates the “Wildest” plan, distilled from our Wetlands Restoration Feasibility Study.

Unveiled at C3’s Breakfast Dialogue at Balboa Park in October, the proposal has already raised eyebrows at meetings in City Hall, and has given the ReWild campaign an actionable plan and tantalizing vision for policymakers as to what Mission Bay Park could (and we feel, will) become with wetland restoration at the “Wildest” level.

We’ve also utilized the ReWild Mission Bay plan and the demonstrable need to preserve natural habitats for species preservation to challenge Mayor Faulconer and city leaders to make good on their commitments to the city’s Climate Action Plan goals, as well as the overriding need to sequester carbon. Wetlands, in turns out, are even more effective at storing carbon than old-growth forests, and we can embrace the tangible opportunity for wetland restoration in our lifetime right here, in San Diego, in northeast Mission Bay. It can be done.

Not only that, we landed strong press coverage of our efforts in 2019 in both print media and on local TV news, including large ReWild press events along Mission Bay during a meeting of the Mission Bay Park Committee, and at three subsequent San Diego City Council meetings over the summer. We also earned favorable opinion pieces in Times of San Diego and other outlets from Audubon team members and concerned San Diego neighbors.

Nevertheless, despite our best efforts, we were unable to prevent the expansion of Campland to the east bank of Rose Creek, after San Diego City Council acquiesced to new and expanded Campland leases in June. Those leases are currently managed for five years, with three potential one-year extensions. Councilmembers Gómez, Bry, and Moreno joined environmentalists in opposition to the leases. They will be revisited by a new mayor and council beginning in 2021.

We were also unable to secure dedicated parkland for the city-managed stretch of Rose Creek from I-5 to Mission Bay through Pacific Beach (in a proposal our friends at Campland were similarly supportive of), though Councilmember Ward did persuade council to “support the conservation of Rose Creek’s ecological health” by way of additional funds raised from capital projects built as part of the San Diego Trolley’s Balboa Ave. station plan.

Despite the setbacks at City Hall, we were able to hammer out an agreement with Campland for them to focus new development and property investments on the east side of Rose Creek in upland areas, located as far from the Mission Bay shoreline and proposed future wetland restoration area as possible. The agreement also noted that any new RV use on the east bank of Rose Creek would be temporary.

And in one of the biggest moments for the ReWild Mission Bay campaign, we partnered with San Diego 350 and the San Diego City College Audubon Club to welcome over 600 students from Mission Bay High School, City College, and other schools to Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve for the Global Climate Walkout on Sept 20.

A culmination of international student strikes and protests to demand action to address climate change ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, speakers at the Global Climate Walkout included representatives from Councilmember Campbell’s office, Yasmeen Obeid from AFT Guild 1931, Ana Armenta Vega from San Diego City College Audubon, Dyani Melgarejo from the City College chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native American Students (SACNAS), Vanessa Cascante of the Mission Bay High School Eco Club, Isabelle Kay of the UC Natural Reserve System, wetland sequestration researcher Dr. Matt Costa, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, and City of San Diego mayoral candidate Tasha Williamson.

And speaking of our city’s 2020 mayoral candidates, Assemblymember Todd Gloria (AD-78), San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry (D-1), and Tasha Williamson all expressed various levels of enthusiasm and support for wetland restoration at the Pacific Beach Town Council mayoral forum in September as they answered questions from the audience. Williamson even mentioned that her son had joined her for Love Your Wetlands Day in February, and that they had a fun, memorable day.

And the arrival of the New Year means the 2020 edition of Love Your Wetlands Day is just around the corner, coming up on Saturday, Feb. 1, at Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve. Join us as we explore and restore this protected coastal habitat, with activities running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. including guided walking tours through the marsh, native animal presentations from the Raptor Institute, and wetlands-themed crafts and experiments. A full schedule of events is on-line now, and don’t forget to bring your rain boots. Be prepared for muddy, family-friendly fun at the 2020 Love Your Wetlands Day. See you at the marsh.