As the idea of a San Dieguito Regional River Park was gaining speed in 1992 and lands on both ends of the park were being purchased, the reality of what was to unfold started sinking in. The areas around Lake Hodges were regarded as an important link between both the San Dieguito Regional River Park and the outlying communities. Plans for the communities and the open space to work together were beginning to take shape.
In the summer the JPA had received $520,000 in state and SANDAG grants for routes within the Lake Hodges area. The project would include a trail under the I-15 near the lake and a 1,200-foot bridge for pedestrians and cyclists that would parallel the freeway spanning the lake providing access to both the River Park and the adjacent RB Community Park. The communities around the proposed River Park were quickly realizing the importance of having such a valuable natural resource right next door to them. Gone were the plans to build a golf course on the shores of Lake Hodges in favor of recreational trails and environmental education opportunities.
Plans continued to emerge. The Rancho Bernardo Soroptimist grove was one of the first projects planned for later in the year. This would include the planting of an oak grove in the Bernardo Bay area as well as a marquee about the project and seating areas for visitors to enjoy. Another plan was to build the two-mile Highland Valley Trail that parallels Highland Valley Road to provide even more access for people from the community to come out and experience the area for the first time. These projects were to be built by the community for the community, and local Eagle Scouts from Carlsbad and Escondido took on the tasks of planting trees, constructing seating areas, and building bridges for the planned projects.
The historic 130-year-old Sikes Adobe on the east side of Lake Hodges was also being looked at for restoration and use as a farming history museum. As we all know now all of these endeavors would take a lot of time, money and cooperation on behalf of all the parties involved. The ground work was being laid and the communities wanted to be involved in the process, wanted to be good neighbors, and most importantly of all, wanted the park.
Senior Park Ranger/ Trails Manager, San Dieguito River Park JPA