Assemblyman Ben Hueso announced Friday that the California Coastal Conservancy awarded $1.5 million to projects to increase trails in the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park.
With an additional $2.5 million from the county, the grants will pay for construction of 6.5 miles of multi-use trails for people to walk or ride bikes or horses as well as removal of invasive and non-native plants and new vegetation in the 1,800-acre park.
The Tijuana River Valley Regional Park is located south of Imperial Beach and north of the international border.
"This is huge news for nature lovers, hikers, equestrians and everyone who enjoys the outdoors," said San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, who represents the district where the park is located. "This grant will help us open up the park a lot more so that visitors can explore areas of the park that weren't accessible before because they lacked formal trails."
Hueso, D-San Diego, presented Cox with a ceremonial check when the announcement was made on Friday. Hueso chairs the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.
Cox said the goal is to build a 22-mile system of trails that will eventually connect to Border Field State Park, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, the California Coastal Trail and the Bayshore Bikeway.
Around 17 miles of the trail system have been funded and will be completed by the end of next year, he said.
The California Coastal Conservancy is a state agency that works to purchase, protect, restore and enhance coastal resources.
Once completed the trails will connect to additional trails in Border Field State Park and the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in Imperial Beach.
Longtime Imperial Beach resident and executive director of WiLDCOAST Serge Dedina said he's glad future generations will be able to traverse the river valley safely.
"What's really really important about this project: It's going to connect some of the most low-income and some of the most underserved communities in San Diego County to one of the most wildlife friendly or filled with wildlife and beautiful river life in Southern California," he said. "And that's really important to make sure that kids and families in San Ysidro and South San Diego and Imperial Beach can ride their bikes to a beautiful, natural area."
The Tijuana River Valley is one of the most biologically diverse areas of San Diego County.
The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve hosts more than 370 species of native and migratory birds as well as endangered plant and avian species.
Border Field State Park is the only place in Southern California where one can legally ride a horse, Cox said.
Tucked in the continental United State's most southwest corner, Border Field offers views of the Playas de Tijuana neighborhood in Mexico, San Diego Bay and the city skyline.
The Dairy Mart Loop Trail, the most recent addition to the regional park's trails, was completed in March 2012.
City News Service contributed to this report.