In 2012, Preserve Wild Santee renewed efforts to gain scenic highway status for SR-52 that were originated by San Diego in 1995. Volunteers fighting the Quail Brush power plant proposal discovered that a unanimous resolution had been passed by the city council directing “all necessary steps” be taken to secure the designation. If the City Manager or Planning Director had followed through, then the value of the scenic resources along SR-52 through Mission Trails Park could not have been ignored or discounted by the power plant environmental analysis. So securing the scenic highway designation would increase the level of protection for continually threatened scenic resources in the vicinity of Mission Trails Park along SR-52.
Council member Marti Emerald responded to PWS by pointing out the clear direction in the resolution given to the City Manager and Planning Director and thus their responsibility to act. Unfortunately, the administration of then Mayor Jerry Sanders had been supportive of the power plant proposal and showed no interest in following through on the process required by the State. The unexpected victory of Bob Filner (an advocate for Mission Trails Park against the power plant) created a new opportunity. Filner’s first unconventional act was to open up the first floor of city hall on Saturday mornings to any resident who wanted to meet with him. Hundreds of citizens lined up and waited their turn to bring their issues to the new mayor. PWS was among them and the response was immediate.
Filner provided support letters requested by PWS, but most importantly, secured the appointment of San Diego Planner Melissa Garcia to work with geographer Van Collinsworth and California Scenic Highway Coordinator Stephen Alvarez to meet State requirements for consideration. The three steadfastly worked together to produce a Visual Assessment and Corridor Protection Plan while hurdling the remaining obstacles brought by changes in leadership. Despite the completion and submission of all required documents there was not sufficient catalyst for a final decision by Caltrans and the application lingered. So PWS asked then SANDAG Chair and Santee City Council member Jack Dale to express support for the plan to Caltrans leadership, which he did. Dale’s support in 2015 was the final catalyst that brought the designation February 2, 2016 and concluded a process initiated in 1995.
The result is a Protection Program recognized by the State of California which recognizes the value of the scenic resources in the Mission Trails Park / SR-52 corridor.