Friday, Oct. 27, 2006 | Here we go again. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, a fence was built around Lake Murray to protect our drinking water. Yet, there was fishing and even sail boarding. Sail boarding didn’t last because there is not much wind at Lake Murray. The people who exercise at Lake Murray were told that when the fence was built that we would always have access. Miramar Lake was targeting to be fenced in next.
Then the Water Department implemented a plan to close the lake to all visitors on certain days of the week. Many of us lake exercisers wrote letters, went to numerous meetings in the community and City Council meetings. We had press conferences. One man wrote to The San Diego Union-Tribune that if the Water Department wanted a fence to protect the lake, “They should install it around the perimeter of the water. Let us use the road.”
In the meantime, we heard from a reliable source that the City Lakes Committee voted to have us passive lake people pay to use the lake access road. Turnstiles were installed at each entrance. There were 35 ranger divers left over from the supposed hydrilla infestation who could patrol and make sure we had a pass to get through turnstiles.
We were told that there were satanic sacrifices at Lake Murray. Parts of animals were found. Of course, coyotes, lots of coyotes, bobcats, raccoons and dogs prey on other animals. We also were told that there were rapes at the lake. Bad people would get in and commit crimes. I have seen poachers jump over the fence like it was two feet instead of six feet high but older folks would have trouble getting in to feed the ducks. None of the bad things that we were told were true, but stories were circulated to garner support for the fence. Few people believed the stories.
When the lake was closed on Thanksgiving Day and a sign appeared that said it would be closed on Christmas and New Years Day too, I called Councilwoman Judy McCarty. She called the city manager at home and the deputy director of the Water Department came to the lake and opened the gates.
The lake is open now and the fence and turnstiles are down. We can get up in the middle of the night and go for a walk if we are troubled. On Christmas, children can go to the lake and ride their new bikes. On Thanksgiving after a big meal, we can walk it off. We are able to start our resolutions on New Years Day. The Water Department’s Lake Staff is wonderful. They open the car gates early so that those who work early can exercise and do chores after work. We love the fact that we don’t have to smell car fumes, that we can observe wildlife, that we can watch the sunrises and don’t have to stop on corners until the stop light changes. Once, we thought that 1,000 people went to the lake daily. Now we think that it is more like 2,000 people. Miramar Lake is just as populated.
We hear that the Water Department’s Recreation Department will be turned over to the San Diego Park and Recreation Department. First the mayor’s department decided to do away with fishing at all city lakes. When the Department of Boating and Waterways wanted their money back for grants given to the 10 city lakes, it was realized that the cost was prohibitive. There will be fishing but there may not be trout stocking this year.
I met with Mayor Jerry Sanders, Chief Operating Officer Ronne Froman, and Chief of Public Works Rich Haas. Ms. Froman told me that the Water Department was not going to be handling recreation at the lakes. The city Park and Recreation would be taking over. Period.
I could have left right then before the mayor arrived. I stayed to voice my concerns. Park and Recreation had control of the lakes in the past and it didn’t work out. I learned that San Diego Park and Recreation not only will have to buy boats, motors and hire a maintenance person to take care of the boats. They will have to hire lifeguards especially for contact water sports like water skiing at San Vicente and El Capitan lakes. Haas said that there is “talk” about charging us to use the access roads around the lakes for exercise and picnicking. I assume that is because of the outlay of funds for this takeover.
Our lake staff comes in early to clean rocks off of the road after a rain and if the road is in disrepair, they barricade it. They know waterfowl and how to care for them when they are hurt or sick. They accommodate us when we have events like, I Love a Clean San Diego clean up, the Kiwanis Turkey Trot. The Lake Staff works with service groups like The Lake Murray Kiwanis and with the La Mesa and San Diego police departments, fire departments and fisherpersons too. They listen to our complaints and know who is a chronic complainer. An example is that there are a few people that want the brush cut and those who don’t want the brush cut.
I am with the Friends of Lake Murray and we work closely with Lake Murray staff to do projects like facilitating the acquisition of picnic tables, watering trees, monthly fishing line and trash pick ups, having special events, and eradication of non-native plants in conjunction with the Native Plant Society and the Sierra Club. We also have monthly meetings.
We are fearful that the city is making a mistake and we the citizens will literally pay the price again. Each of the 10 city lakes will be impacted with this transition and it concerns me that we can’t go to a safe place outdoors without paying. I guess our contribution in taxes won’t mean anything. If “talk” of admission to the lakes becomes a reality, it will be unfortunate. Here we go again.
Barbara Cleves Anderson is chairwoman of the Friends of Lake Murray