500 Sea World Drive, Mission Beach
San Diego is blessed with many nice public walks, and this is one of the nicer ones, because it hugs the south shore of Mission Bay opposite Fiesta Island. It is named for Rose Marie Starns, who was the head of the San Diego Hotel-Motel Association and a “relentless advocate for Mission Bay Park and San Diego tourism,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
As you drive into the lot, note that the boat launch is a large, busy area with great public facilities. After parking, you’ll pick up the sidewalk immediately on the right of the boat launch area. Simply follow this around to the east. Be alert and you will probably be greeted by an osprey who seems to make this area his perch.
The focus of this small park is a wide, artistically designed concrete walkway that winds its way east until it meets up with Sea World Drive, about 150 yards south of the entry road into Fiesta Island. For those wanting a longer walk, they can continue north across Fiesta Island Road and pick up the walkway that follows the east side of Mission Bay.
What you’ll notice immediately is the graceful way the path follows the shoreline. There are ample benches to sit on and watch the world go by. Or you could have a picnic; there are tables and also a shaded area. There are also fire pits. This walkway is framed by native plants that also support an abundance of bush birds. It is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
There is an explosion of color here, especially in the spring due to the moisture and mild climate, but the path any time of the year offers up many beautiful views. Keep an eye out for the pines along the way; they are Torrey Pines, as evidenced by their five-needle bundles. Take in the members of our coastal sage scrub community: San Diego goldenbush or coastal goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii) dominates throughout. The male coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) might be in bloom, waiting for the wind to carry their pollen to interested female coyote bushes. Interspersed among the lemonadeberry, toyon, and laurel sumac are sea lavenders (Limonium perezii) providing their purple blooms as a contrast to the greens.
Cedar Waxwings and White-crowned Sparrows dart in and out of the coastal sage scrub habitat. Enjoy your walk on the mild side!
ROSE MARIE STARNS SOUTH SHORES PARK (Mission Bay)
Enjoy a walk on the mild side
Driving directions: Exit I-5 on to Sea World Drive west and go one mile. Turn right onto South Shores Parkway and drive about 0.2 mile and turn right into the lot. This is also home to the Mission Bay South Shores Boat Launching Facility, and is part of the Mission Bay Bike Path. Hiking length: 1.7 miles out-and-back. Allow 45-60 minutes. Difficulty: Easy. The trail is paved. Bicycles are allowed. A great family outing as well. No dogs between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. (April-October) or 4 p.m. (November-March). Leashed dogs allowed before and after those hours.