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If you use Fiesta Island for any activity (water skiing, biking, running, boating, OTL, running your dog, etc.), KEEP READING!

You may or may not be aware of the plans to develop Fiesta Island, but they are well underway.

I don’t want to scare anyone, so I will start off by saying that there are no plans for a hotels or businesses on the island.

However, I do feel that the proposed changes will forever change the rough and undeveloped patch of dirt that so many of us love and use on a daily basis.

A little history:

  • 1956 Fiesta Island was added to the master plan for Mission Bay Park as a disposal area for the undesirable material being dredged from the bay.
  • 1965 Fiesta Island is completed (in the size and shape we know today)
  • 1972 The city designated Fiesta Island as a “dog-off leash” area until further development
  • 1994 The Mission Bay Park Master Plan is revised, including specific plans for Fiesta Island. In this version of the master plan, the vision for Fiesta Island was very much like the other areas in Mission Bay (turf, picnic tables, playgrounds, and parking lots).
  • 2002 Sea World expands and the Coastal Commission requires that the city of San Diego implement the portion of the master plan that includes Fiesta Island to ensure the city is keeping proportionate percentages of developed land to park land.
  • 2006 KTU+A is contracted by the City to create the architectural plans to develop Fiesta Island
  • 2007… A year later, where are we in this process?

Still working on those architectural plans. KTU+A has been working with the community through public forums and private meetings with user groups to come up with a plan that will work for everyone. If you would like to see their numerous iterations, check out their website.

So what’s my bone to pick? I use Fiesta Island daily to exercise with my dogs.

Right now, almost the entire island is “leash free,” which gives me 397 acres to walk, run, or bike with my dogs. It’s where I exercise myself and my dogs.

Dog owners are, by far, the largest user group on the island and as the development process continues, we seem to be the only group getting screwed.

In response, we have banned together to create Fiesta Island Dog Owners or FIDO to voice our concerns and opinions.

If you currently use the island, you know that there is 97-acre fenced area that is designated by the users as the “dog area.” Although dog owners use the entire island, this area is used the most (my best guess is that 90 percent of the dog traffic is contained in this area).

However, the new plans reduce this area to about 30 acres which sounds like a lot but completely destroys the nature of activities that current users enjoy. As I said earlier: I walk, run and bike with my dogs. You can’t do those kinds of activities in 30 acres.

Throughout our interactions with the Mission Bay Park Committee and KTU+A, we have simply asked that this 97-acre area be preserved. Their reaction has been that we should “feel lucky” that we are getting anything at all.

So, the city’s planners have essentially told the largest user group that, after over three decades of recreational access, their use is of little or no value compared to that of potential, as yet unidentified, users of a new and improved Fiesta Island; potential users whose recreational needs are apparently unmet in the other 1600+ acres of developed park land of Mission Bay Park, or the other 39,000+ acres of city park and open space.

Fiesta Island, with its 397 acres of leash free park, represents 90 percent of the current leash-free acres available to dog owners in the city. The proposed development would reduce leash free access in the city by over 30 percent. It’s a resource that the city will not be able to replace.

The kicker is that the fenced dog area is being reduced so that they can build a loading dock for the paddlers, which will include a road and parking lot splitting the current area in half.

The dog owners are in full support of the paddlers getting a more convenient location for their activities. It’s just a shame that the loading dock cannot be located on the South Shore of Mission Bay, leaving Fiesta Island intact. The short and narrow sightedness of the current plan is frustrating.

— PAULA LYNN

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