Campland on the Bay
Campland on the Bay. Courtesy of Campland

As one of the most popular beach destinations in the United States, there is strong demand for affordable coastal access in San Diego for locals and visitors alike.

At the same time, economic barriers prevent many from visiting and enjoying our coasts.

An often-overlooked solution to this dilemma is waterfront camping. Not only does waterfront camping provide essential affordable access to San Diego’s coast, but it also stimulates the local economy and promotes environmental awareness.

San Diego’s Campland on the Bay and Mission Bay RV Resort in Mission Bay Park stand apart as the city’s only recreational vehicle and tent campgrounds offering affordable, direct beachfront access for families. Campers have access to rates as low as $65 per night with space for up to six people per campsite, a tremendous value compared to other types of coastal accommodations.

For underserved youth and families, Campland offers a free camping program that provides access to tents, sleeping bags and other equipment without any cost to the campers.

Camping has a much smaller carbon footprint compared to many other forms of visitor accommodations. Many of the campers who visit northeast Mission Bay come from San Diego County, which is another big plus for the environment, resulting in fewer miles traveled. Campers also use much less electricity and water, yet another win.

RV camping also encourages people to spend time outdoors, enjoying the natural beauty of Mission Bay, highlighting the importance of preserving it for future generations. It also provides a special opportunity for families to disconnect from the stress of everyday life and create lifelong memories outdoors.

Aside from the environmental aspects, there are many other benefits that go hand-in-hand with supporting camping in northeast Mission Bay Park. The obvious is the economic impacts. These iconic campgrounds provide significant revenue for the City that funds important maintenance and environmental projects in Mission Bay Park. In 2022 alone, camping had a staggering $282 million annual economic impact in San Diego County, with campers injecting $90 million into local communities.

As small business owners ourselves in Mission Beach, we see firsthand the benefits of waterfront camping on the livelihoods of our employees and fellow local business owners, many of which are still struggling since the onset of the pandemic.

Lastly is the history of stewardship by Campland and Mission Bay RV Resort. They have served campers for decades while preserving the natural beauty of our bay. They have partnered with our city and community on multiple projects, including the clean-up of De Anza Cove and related bike path improvements.

Despite this, the city is in the midst of a planning process for northeast Mission Bay that envisions closing the 578 campsites at the popular Campland campground. While the City’s proposal, the De Anza Natural Plan, is the best option on the table, all of the alternatives under consideration would significantly reduce existing camping access at a time when affordable access is needed more than ever.

As the city finalizes its plans, it must continue to prioritize waterfront camping and not diminish the public’s access to beloved recreation and lodging opportunities. The city needs to adopt a viable and sustainable plan.

Preserving existing waterfront camping access is a no brainer in terms of demand and the emotional wellbeing of the public. It’s no wonder that Campland and Mission Bay RV Resort sell out within minutes of opening their availability for summer reservations on their website.

These are just some of the reasons why our community overwhelmingly chose camping as the most important use for the future of northeast Mission Bay throughout the city’s public input process. This is why we continue to embrace camping as a vital recreational priority for the city’s future plans, and continue to urge city leaders to study an option that would result in no net loss to existing camping access before it’s too late.

Matt Gardner is a local business owner and past president of the Mission Beach Town Council. Sarah Mattinson is also a local business owner and vice president of the town council.