The Lagoon Boardwalk was completed in 2007, largely with the help of local volunteers. State and federal grants funded most of the project, but people also donated about $55,000 to complete the boardwalk. Plaques with donors' names are displayed along the boardwalk.
"The donors put their heart and soul, as well as their money, into this boardwalk so it's very upsetting to learn that it may be taken out," said Trish Boaz, the executive director of the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy.
Boaz said the California Coastal Commission approved the project years ago. Last year, the agency raved about the benefits saying, "The elevated boardwalk provides views of the river without the necessity to walk through habitat."
Boaz said last year, the Coastal Commission "approved the fairgrounds restoration project with the boardwalk in place."
Now, the commission staff is taking another direction, recommending the relocation of the boardwalk in order to gain an additional acre of wetlands. But Boaz said the water can run underneath the boardwalk, so moving it would not create any extra space.
"The boardwalk's been in place for over seven years and we have a thriving wetland," Boaz said.
A commission spokesperson told Team 10 the boardwalk was always temporary.
Sarah Christie, the legislative director for the California Coastal Commission released this statement:
"The existing boardwalk is across an area of historic wetland that has been more recently used as a parking lot. We have always considered that a temporary alignment, subject to future restoration … In our view, the restoration must necessarily re-route the trail, in order to provide superior ecosystem function."
Christie also said that although the boardwalk was approved with the fairgrounds plan in 2014, the commission "didn't require relocation of the boardwalk at the time of the original permit because we didn't know how long it would take to get the restoration plans approved or what the final design would be."
She said the recommendation to relocate the boardwalk is in compliance with the Coastal Act, a very controversial piece of legislation that creates 'environmental czars' instead of elected boards who preside over coastal land use issues.
Team 10 also asked about the funding for the more than $350,000 project, whether it was a waste of money for a temporary boardwalk.
Christie could not provide a comment because a different state agency, the California Conservancy, gave the grants. That agency had to look up records from a decade ago, which were not immediately available.
"Frankly, it's a travesty to take this out," Boaz said.
The commission will address the issue during a meeting later this week. A petition on change.org to keep the boardwalk has more than 1,000 supporters as of Monday afternoon.