Alvarez goes down by the river

Group of border trail users invites councilman for a damage tour

On the damaged-trail tour
  • On the damaged-trail tour

A group of Tijuana River Valley hikers and equestrians took San Diego city councilmember David Alvarez to see an impassable river channel crossing on August 22. Their hope is that he will be able to get the city to fix it.

Annual dredging of the Tijuana River and flood-control channels began last October. Since then — and before March 2014, when no dredging is allowed due to endangered birds — a deep gouge marred the once-gentle slopes. As a result, hikers and equestrians lost the ability to cross the river to get to the beach from the many ranches along Hollister Street north of Monument Road.

County parks staff had told trail users to cross the river on the Hollister Street bridge, a narrow two-lane span. With no shoulders and low railings, the bridge can barely handle two-way auto traffic, residents said.

Because of the problem with the dredging, the channel under the bridge is full of stagnant water that should have drained, local rancher Dick Tynan said.

The crossing is also important to the U.S. Border Patrol, especially when someone has entered the U.S. illegally and is running northwest of Hollister.

A Border Patrol representative attended the meeting and tour and talked about the agency's concern for the safety of its patrol agents and for being able to do their job. He made a side trip to a newly created and blocked rogue trail across the channel, where equestrians talked about whether or not their own horses could climb out (some yes, some no). Imperial Beach mayoral candidate Serge Dedina climbed down to have a look.

With his necktie tucked in his back pocket, Alvarez hiked through the silty trails spiked with trash of shoes and tires and listened to the concerns of his hosts. More than a dozen members of the Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association, including president Vicki Strauss, talked about the immediate danger of riding horses on the road. Many horses are spooked by vehicles speeding past them, Strauss said.

Tynan, who organized the meeting, showed Alvarez the six-foot drop from the bank of the dry channel, now full of weeds and invasive plants, as well as the tires brought in with floods and sewage flows from Mexico.

"We talked to the county parks about it and they said they can't fix it," Tynan said. "They said that the city stormwater dredging did the damage and they have to fix it. We want that to happen before someone gets hurt on the road."

Alvarez told the group he has scheduled a September 17 hearing on the issue at city hall. "The way I see it, we want the stormwater people to finish the dredging east and west and to restore this crossing,” Alvarez said. "We are going to find out why it wasn't finished and to ask them for this."

Disclosure:  I hike in the Tijuana River Valley and upland areas, though I have never hiked the Effie Mae trail. I participate in Trails Committee meetings with some members of the Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association.

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