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A Bridge to Somewhere  
February 2009 | by Ann Gardner, Via Latina and Jacqueline Winterer, Seaview

Del Mar Grand Avenue Bridge: A History

 

Del Mar’s 68-year old wooden bridge, built in 1941 to carry anti-submarine patrol blimps over the San Dieguito River during World War II, has been transformed into a peaceful viewing platform where visitors can now enjoy dozens of bird species in the newly restored lagoon, nearby marshes and estuarine flats. A celebration of its completion was held at the site in January.

Fated for demolition in Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Lagoon Restoration Plan, the bridge was saved at the last minute by a group that includes the Friends of the River Valley, the Del Mar Lagoon Committee and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Agency. They recognized the value of the bridge’s history, original simple design and its potential as a viewing platform.

Supervisor Pam Slater-Price contributed county funds for a redesign. Don Coordt, local architect and early Lagoon activist, prepared the plans and the Del Mar Design Review Board and City Council approved the project in 2002. SCE agreed to include the work and cost of modifying the bridge in its restoration project and Marathon Construction has just completed the job: shortening the 152 foot long bridge by a third, raising the side rails to meet safety standards and retrofitting the rotting piers - without sacrificing the original design. In the final phases of construction the Del Mar Rotary Club came equipped with brushes to restain the re-milled original boards. Unused piers from the shortened bridge are left standing for birds to perch on.
At the celebration speakers remembered the history of the old airfield site, and recalled the role of the Del Mar Lagoon Committee in 1972 when it began drawing up plans to restore the area for fish and bird habitats. In 1982 the Committee, and by then the Friends, came up against their biggest challenge: a move by the 22nd Agricultural District to acquire the parcel for development of a hotel complex and parking lots.

Thanks to the City of Del Mar, the Lagoon Committee and the Friends (“A real David and Goliath story” recalls then Mayor Brooke Eisenberg) the request, which included a new freeway exit off I-5, for development was denied by the State and in 1991 the then-new San Dieguito River Park purchased 90 acres of the site as the first parcel in a 55-mile long river valley park that now extends eastward toward the mountains at Julian. A really terrific view from the old bridge!

“To view photos of the Grand Avenue Bridge construction go to www.sdrp.org and click on “For info on the Grand Avenue Bridge Overlook.”

   
 

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