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Sinking in the Rain
Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive

Crest Canyon 02/15/2019. Note two people on path.
Photo Joe Bride with a drone.
Click to enlarge.
Crest Canyon 02/15/2019.
Photo Joe Bride with a drone.
Click to enlarge.

Valentine’s Day brought whipping winds, torrential rain and a very large hole in Crest Canyon, 35 ft in diameter and 20 ft deep. It opened up on the other side of Oribia Road opposite the home of Ann and Gill Williamson, who knew better than anyone where it had come from. (Gill corrected my lax usage in calling it a “sinkhole,” which is peculiar to karst formations.) He had witnessed and recorded on film (now video) the great erosion down through Crest Canyon from the heavy rains of the winters of 1979-80 and 1980-81 and the work of restoration that was completed only in 1983 with the installation of underground drainage pipes, which, along with replanting, have kept the canyon free of serious erosion until now. The pipes were installed beneath earth dredged from the lagoon and deposited in areas adjacent to where the current western path now runs. Gill says, “The erosion of 1978-81 was caused by excessive (relative to historical patterns) runoff from the newly built-up Del Mar Heights area. The current erosion is a very small fraction of the earlier erosion and is, most likely, caused by a failure in some of the pipes installed in 1983. As in any erosion control method, maintenance is required, and this will be the solution to the current problem.”

Barriers have been set up to keep out the curious by the City of San Diego, which is responsible for land east of Oribia. Joe Bride, Director of Public Works for the City of Del Mar reports, “The City of San Diego engineers confirmed that the sinkhole was caused by a broken storm drain pipe at the bottom of the ‘cave-in.’ One of our photos shows a piece of geo fabric, which has been laid over storm drain pipes since the 1970s.” Possible remedies will emerge. Meanwhile the Williamsons have made their video and print archive of the events of 1979-83 publicly accessible by donating it to the Del Mar Historical Society. The photos here cannot convey the extent of the (w)hole, but their digitized videos dramatically express the impressive scope of the original collapse and restoration. The DMHS thanks the Williamsons for being civic-minded and asks that anyone with historically valuable documents consider donating them, or loaning them for digitalization.


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