Lindo Lake community workshop gathers Lakeside residents to participate in park redesign

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Lindo Lake is one of East County’s unique treasures. This Lakeside body of water is San Diego County’s only natural lake and has been centerpiece of the public park since a 1920 legal decision restored the area to the people’s ownership. The County of San Diego took on responsibility for maintaining the lake and adjacent parklands in 1924.

Lindo Lake is one of East County’s unique treasures. This Lakeside body of water is San Diego County’s only natural lake and has been centerpiece of the public park since a 1920 legal decision restored the area to the people’s ownership. The County of San Diego took on responsibility for maintaining the lake and adjacent parklands in 1924.

But Lindo Lake has become less healthy recently, according to local residents who attended the Lindo Lake Basin Improvement Project Design Workshop at the Lakeside Community Center on Dec. 8. The County of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department is in the midst of planning a project to address identified problems and concerns about the condition of Lindo Lake and its surrounding parklands and facilities.

The process kicked off in 2012, when Lakeside residents at a public meeting expressed wishes to maintain the lake by keeping its water levels steady and deepening both of its basins. A feasibility study in 2014 for possible elements of a construction project included a sediment investigation and an aerial survey. Now, as 2015 is ending, the parks department is implementing initial stages of the redesign process for Lindo Lake Park, with public information and public input events.

The first meeting during this phase was an open house held on Oct. 14, which offered explanations of the process and a tentative schedule of public meetings. The Dec. 8 meeting and its companion Dec. 9 gathering were next in the series, as “community workshops” at which planners and landscape designers from construction firm AECOM provided an update, and then solicited comments and possible park redesign features from attendees.

The earlier October open house workshop had elicited broad-scope preferences. Participants there had indicated desires for a deeper lake, use of solar panels to power aeration of the lake, and a mixture of high and low berms throughout the park. Trail surfacing and placement of dedicated bird watching and fishing sites had been chosen as priority redesign elements. Problems that researchers had noted should be dealt with included the lake’s water loss from seepage, shoreline erosion, and ongoing algae blooms and accumulation of waterfowl excrement fouling the lake’s water quality.

The AECOM representatives informed those present on Dec. 8 that the recommendations are for lining the lake, aerating the lake, and excavating the lake’s sediment. Before the meeting broke into smaller groups, a few attendees voiced complaints about the lack of widespread notice given to lake-area homeowners and nearby residents before the event.

The approximately 25 participants scattered from the auditorium seating, filling chairs around five tables at the back of the room. A copy of the aerial view photo of Lindo Lake Park lay on each table under a translucent paper cover, which could permit written notes and placement of precut outlines of soil mound berms to be taped on during the group design activities. AECOM representatives led the table groups according to an agenda of tasks, starting with participants sharing their statements of what Lindo Lake means to them. Each set of table workshop “design teams” had the specific assignments to “locate the shoreline fishing area,” “identify observation points for birds,” and “locate soil mounding areas.” The assembly reconvened as a whole group to close out the meeting.

During the breakout design work, several participants expressed suspicion and trepidation about the redesign and construction process and what would eventuate.

“What scares me is that I might lose part of my yard,” said one woman, whose home fronts the park.

“This scares me too,” a man seated beside her agreed. “I’ve been coming over here since ’72, doing horse walking as a rodeo contractor. The lake was my reason for buying here. I want to see the lake back the way it was.”

A man at another table echoed those concerns, saying, “I like the idea of not even touching it. I’d prefer leaving it alone. The lake needs water. But it’s been doing its own thing for thousands of years.”

A related fear surfaced, as a participant questioned whether the park redesign’s construction project might transform into sand mining operations, with material dredged from the lake bottom bid out or offered for sale. (He cited ongoing controversy over the nearby El Monte Nature Preserve proposal, which promises to fold together sand recovery with land improvements for public use.)

One said he’d lived 35 years by the lake, and continued, “This is partly our fault. We haven’t been vocal on lake preservation. We haven’t kept track of the lake’s wellness, as lots of things have happened over the years.” He raised further questions about the impact of prevailing winds from the west, periodic mosquito infestations, and possible episodes of a “stench” wafting from excavated debris piled into mounds on site.

Possible project benefits that intrigued redesign participants included better trails and extensions of paths, leveling of existing uneven walkways, with better and safer access for children to the park’s amenities and facilities. One attendee summed up his feelings as others at his table nodded agreement, “We want to preserve the old time, small town vibe in Lakeside. Just remember that you are acting as stewards on our behalf because this is ours.”

The next workshop in this phase is set to be scheduled in late January or early February, with two or three “concept plans” for park redesign presented for public review and comment, with one to be selected as the basis for construction documents for the following phase in the overall process. Announcements and information about upcoming meetings for the Lindo Lake proposed redesign are available online at the Lakeside Community Planning Group’s website lcpg.weebly.com or through the park’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/lindolake.

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