San Diego’s reservoirs provide much more to the region beyond storing water. They give thousands of residents and visitors an opportunity to enjoy recreational activities, including fishing, boating, overnight camping, and other day use amenities and are an economic engine for the region. Due to budget constraints, several reservoirs throughout the region that are owned and operated by agencies other than the County are not open to the public during certain days of the week.
East County supervisors Joel Anderson and his colleague Nora Vargas introduced a board letter to increase recreational opportunities at regional reservoirs which was unanimously passed at the March 14 Board of Supervisors meeting.
The board directed county staff to work with the city of San Diego, Sweetwater Authority, other regional agencies and community partners to collaboratively seek and apply for federal, state, or private funding to support increasing recreational access at the region’s reservoirs.
If funding cannot be identified, future budget deliberations will allocate a portion of the County’s budget towards increasing recreation access to reservoirs based on opportunities to partner with other agencies. County staff will report back to the Board in 180 days to provide an update on the collaboration for funding.
“I have heard from countless constituents the need to have increased recreational opportunities at our region’s reservoirs and I am glad that my colleagues agree. I am excited that the County will work collaboratively with all agencies that own or operate these reservoirs to ensure we are exhausting every opportunity to keep recreational access funded and available to all,” Anderson said in a statement.
Vargas said through the pandemic the County was reminded that recreational spaces are essential for social, mental, and emotional wellness.
“When kids can play outdoor sports in safe, clean spaces or families are able to go for walks to neighborhood parks, our communities are stronger. That’s why I am committed to expanding outdoor access for every resident. Thanks to my colleague Supervisor Joel Anderson for his efforts in expanding open spaces throughout San Diego County,” she stated.
In the board letter, it states that one priority is to seek $120,000 in annual funding to provide additional days of operations at the Barrett, El Capitan, Otay, San Vicente, and Sutherland reservoirs.
Another priority is to seek $37,518 in annual funding for one seasonal park attendant to assume maintenance and operation responsibilities of the Sweetwater Loop Trail (South Trail). This short-term partnership opportunity would provide enhanced trail experiences for recreational users at Sweetwater Reservoir.
“Sweetwater Reservoir is operated by Sweetwater Authority and is open on a year-round basis with fishing hours varying throughout the year. Recreational opportunities are limited to shoreline fishing and trail use to protect the potable water supply. Over the years, the Sweetwater Authority and the County have worked together to increase recreational opportunities around Sweetwater Reservoir through the development of the Sweetwater Loop Trail. Negotiations are currently underway for the remaining segments, 5 through 10, needed to complete the loop. The potential to increase recreational opportunities at the site would be for DPR to assume the operations of the five-mile South Trail that is currently maintained by Sweetwater Authority. This partnership opportunity could provide enhanced trail experiences for recreational users.”
There are 12 reservoirs in the unincorporated area of the County that are currently owned by five different agencies other than the County of San Diego. In addition, some reservoirs contract out the recreational programming operations to a third party via a lease or license agreement.