By Greg Cox
Years ago, kids growing up in South County had very rather limited places to go to if they wanted to get outside and enjoy nature.
But a remarkable transformation has taken place in the southern part of our region. Working with numerous cities and agencies, the County of San Diego has built a robust network of regional parks and amenities that provide countless ways for families to exercise and to enjoy our precious natural habitats and thriving wildlife.
From the 8,500 acres of open space in Otay Valley Regional Park, to the sweeping bay and ocean views offered at Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, to the bustling activity of migratory birds flying over the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park, South County is now a parks and recreation haven.
And best of all, if you live in the South County, it’s all right in your backyard.
These parks and amenities are highlighted in a new brochure and map available to the public through the County Parks and Recreation Department.
The brochure is available in both Spanish and English online at http://www.co.san-diego.ca.us/parks/picnic/otaylakes.
It evolved out of an initiative the county launched in 2010 to improve our community’s health. The Live Well San Diego initiative began with the recognition that more than half of San Diego County residents die of preventable chronic diseases.
The challenges our communities face, not just in helping kids fight obesity but helping adults fight chronic diseases, are significant and can’t be tackled alone. That’s why I recently brought South County cities together to share what they, too, are doing to improve the community’s health, and how we can all learn from each other. The information they shared was outstanding.
San Diego is promoting physical activity through youth sports programs and free Zumba classes. National City is revitalizing Paradise Creek and plans to create a pedestrian and bicycle master plan. Coronado collaborated with its schools on wellness programs and engaged teens in community service projects like beach clean ups. Chula Vista created a Cilantro to Stores program to increase access to local, farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Imperial Beach created a farmer’s market on its pier and has improved access to the Bayshore Bikeway, which circles the bay and traverses all the cities.
These are just a few of the examples of what cities and non-profit, community-based organizations are doing to improve health.
It is partnerships like these that can have a significant impact on the health issues facing our community. But we can also have an impact by sharing information about our resources, like the new brochure and map of South County parks.
These parks have a growing network of trails that are great for exploring. Sweetwater Summit Regional Park has more than 16 miles of trails, not to mention a picnic park and splash park for families to enjoy with their kids. Tijuana River Valley Regional Park offers 22 miles of trails for bird watching, hiking, biking or horseback riding.
These parks and trails and bikeways were built for you to enjoy, but they are also here for future generations to explore. It is our children, and their children, who will be their stewards, and we need to let them know these parks are right outside their doors awaiting them.
Go out and enjoy the parks. Take care of your family’s health and take advantage of the programs being offered in your community. Let’s live well, San Diego!
Greg Cox represents District 1 on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. He began his public service career as a teacher in the Sweetwater Union High School District and served two terms as mayor of Chula Vista.
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