The one-mile Dairy Mart Loop Trail opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony in the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park Friday morning. The loop is made up of previously existing paths that were resurfaced and additions made.
"I think of it as the eastern gateway to a 22-mile trail network that will eventually take visitors all the way to the coast,," said director of the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Brian Albright. Trails in the Tijuana estuary and Border Field State Park are part of that vision.
The $600,000 project was funded in part by the County of San Diego and a state grant.
A boardwalk was installed to make the trail operable during wet winter months and a bird blind was installed overlooking Dairy Mart pond. Bird blinds are meant to hide people from bird's view so they aren't spooked by people's presence.
Sporting a long beard, binoculars, sandals and notebook to document sightings, Jim Pea of San Diego is a bird watcher who said he has walked the trail every week for the past five years.
Hundreds of birds can be found in the area. Friday he said he saw a Hammonds Flycatcher and Common Moorhens, among other birds.
With the new changes, "everyone else can come here whereas before it was just me and the Border Patrol."
"The idea of this is good," he said. "If you'd been here last winter you'd see what the water does to this trail. It's just one big mud pile."
Where the boardwalk is now, he said, in some places the mud got two to three feet deep.
"It will be interesting to see if people use it," said Pea, who called the bird blind "just silly."
"There's just no use for it," he said.
California Conservation Corps employees have worked since last fall to carve out the trail with assistance from the county's Department of Parks and Recreation.
County Supervisor Greg Cox said making the loop took cooperation from several different agencies.
"When you boil it down, I don't think there's any area in the United States that has more governmental agencies," he said.
One time I think I counted it up I think there's 32 or something like that, city, county, state, federal and international agencies that have some area of influence in the Tijuana River valley. So because of that it really takes a lot of coordination."
Funding must be identified to continue with other trail projects in the area, said Nick Martinez, the county's parks project manager.