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Now here’s a time capsule that no one really wants to open. If you drive on the east side of Balboa Park between Pershing Drive and Florida Drive, you’ll see acres of dirt that cover a generation’s worth of garbage.

The Arizona Street canyon was a landfill from 1952-1974, right smack in the city’s crown jewel. The trash is still there, and there’s even a vent for methane gas.

How did that happen? As part of her continuing look at the changes and controversies of Balboa Park, our Kelly Bennett finds that it might have been a matter of simple economics. “Newspaper articles from the time highlighted saving money by hauling trash smaller distances,” she writes.

There wasn’t much controversy about the landfill back then. Now, there are plans to reclaim the land, but it’s going to be expensive.

“It’s not an easy site to do much on,” Bennett writes. “In 1987, a worker lit a cigarette near a storm drain and was blown six feet away. His clothes ignited and 35 percent of his body was covered in burns.”

Trashing Balboa Park, Now

Speaking of the trashing of our beloved Balboa Park, a late-night water-gun party appears to be the culprit behind the ugly vandalizing of the Lily Pond at Balboa Park, the U-T reports: “A few of the colorful and beloved koi that inhabit the pond died in the revelry. Freshly planted landscaping was trampled, and the ornate floating Victorian lilies were destroyed.”

A woman says she warned the police on Saturday night about the party, which was organized via Facebook. It doesn’t appear that any authorities were on hand for the event; it’s not clear if the park had security guards on duty.

“It was a mess. There were a few dead koi, empty bottles, squirt guns, balloons, flip-flops …,” the man who maintains the pond told the paper. “They broke the drain pipe and some of the old planters collapsed.”  

It could cost thousands of dollars to repair the damage, says NBC 7 San Diego.

As we told you a couple weeks ago during our continuing look at Balboa Park’s history, the Lily Pond served as the home of swimming lessons for sailors during World War II. And, of course, it remains one of the most iconic places in all of San Diego.

YMCA’s Salaries under Scrutiny

The U-T’s recent story taking a critical look at spending on executives at the local YMCA has spawned a follow-up in the NC Times. It finds that some regional YMCA directors in the county make as much as $250,000, “with many getting paid as much as a typical schools superintendent or city manager, even though school districts and cities are larger operations with many more employees.”

A non-profit guru says the salaries appear to be reasonable. But, she tells the paper, that high salaries can create a damaging perception.

“It’s hard to explain it to people sometimes,” she said. “The general public has some misconceptions about charitable organizations. Surveys have shown that some people think all nonprofit employees are volunteers who work for free.”

Baja’s Wine Country Officially Famous

It’s no longer a secret: Baja’s wine country has been getting reams of good press, and it’s not stopping. The latest comes from the Wall Street Journal, whose writer says she would’ve thought she was in Sonoma if it wasn’t for the dirt roads.

Quick News Hits

• The U-T continues pushing its political opinions on the Sunday front page: Yesterday, after Mitt Romney ignored the paper’s much-ballyhooed suggestions of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or Senator Marco Rubio for VP, the paper declared it likes Rep. Paul Ryan just fine.

Also, the paper that recently declared Barack Obama to be the worst U.S. president of all time and a massive egotist announced that it hopes for a “genuine” debate over the election, “not the sound-bite smear-fest we’ve seen for most of 2012.”

• The paper’s editorial board also continued to slam the port district, which became government agency non grata by breezily blowing off the newspaper’s mammoth plan to remake the waterfront. The U-T says the port’s  newly announced 24.5-year lease with the Dole company is too long. After all, it says, “the marine terminal site is perfect for a stadium, convention center expansion and arena.” (That would be that aforementioned mammoth plan.)

• Yesterday was the hottest day of the year, the U-T says, with the mercury reaching 85 at Lindbergh Field. That’s the warmest it’s been since Jan. 5 (!) when the temperature got up to 83.

Of course, Lindbergh Field’s temperature isn’t very representative of our region, and the thermometers zoomed higher elsewhere in the county, reaching 116 in Borrego Springs.

That’s a few degrees higher than San Diego’s record temperature of 111 degrees at Lindbergh Field back in September 1963.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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