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A More Permanent Park
Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive

“Having him here for six months is like having a high powered consultant to take an objective look at how we are meeting some big challenges,” the Sandpiper reported in September 2011.
Photo Art Olson
Click on photo to enlarge.

After months of negotiation, a new 50-year operating agreement has been approved by the San Dieguito River Park’s Board of Directors and the six member agencies, including Del Mar. The agreement ensures the continued multi-jurisdictional operation of the popular 50-mile Coast to Crest Park that provides hiking, bicycling, equestrian, educational and other recreational programs for residents and visitors alike.

When the original 25 year agreement expired last year differences between the member agencies about whether and how the River Park should continue to operate surfaced. The City of San Diego had several concerns that related to the finances and operations of the River Park. For instance, over 50% of the property in the River Park is in the City of San Diego, but a great proportion is owned by the City water utility rate payers and comes with special use restrictions and funding limits. Other cities such as Solana Beach are adjacent to the Park but have little or no property within the Park itself.

Mark Ochenduszko, retired Coronado City Manager who has a history of stepping into challenging interim positions, was brought on board upon the simultaneous retirement of the both the Park’s Executive and Assistant Executive Directors. His task was to balance the different goals and needs of the member agencies. All wanted the Park to continue operating but only if a deal could be worked out that satisfied the needs of all six agencies. Countless drafts of agreements were prepared. Councilmembers, staff and agency attorneys all provided input. Progress reports and feedback were shared between the numerous community groups that make up the River Park’s Citizens Advisory Committee.

The agreement includes changes to how member agency annual contributions are apportioned, the optional use of a weighted vote (based on member contribution levels) over issues affecting the finances of the JPA, financial reporting is being revised, and best management practices for trail maintenance are being developed.

Ochenduszko credited the agreement to everyone’s desire to keep the River Park a joint effort, but we also want to point out that Mark has a string of successful management roles including interim Del Mar City Manager for six months in 2011.


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