Plans to revamp the Pottery Canyon open space at 2024 Torrey Pines Road are one step closer to fruition, as the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory board voted unanimously at its June 24 meeting to send a letter to the City requesting it manicure the natural area. The letter was drafted following a City request for recommendations of community areas that could be made into public parks.
Sent to San Diego Park & Recreation director Herman Parker and San Diego Planning Department park designer Shannon Scoggs and signed by LJP&B member Melinda Merryweather, the letter reads in part: “One of our suggestions is to render usable a park we already have in inventory, Pottery Canyon Park ... ideally sized at 18.28 acres, proper use of this land would not require any purchase or eminent domain, as it is already listed in San Diego Park Inventory. If properly maintained, this land would give us more parkland to enjoy.
“The issue at hand is that this parcel is not usable at this time due to long-term deferred maintenance. Dead trees need to be removed, vegetation trimmed and six or eight picnic tables installed for community enjoyment. The parcel is flat enough for recreational use and can be made quite attractive.”
The Pottery Canyon open space is named for its former occupants, the Rodriguez brothers’ famed pottery-making company, located there from 1928 to the 1970s. The family’s pottery kiln still remains in a state of disrepair on private property near the public open space.
The entrance is marked with a sign that reads “City of San Diego: Pottery Canyon Natural Park” and the open space is accessed by a 0.2-mile paved road. There is also a metal gate that is opened and closed — often by residents — at the front end of the road. Both sides of the paved road are fenced-off and marked private property.
Progressing toward the park, one can hear the whistling of wind through the eucalyptus trees, the occasional screech of a hawk and the slowly fading sound of traffic on Torrey Pines Road. When the paved road ends at a private residence, a wooded area marks the entrance to the public park.
On a walk-though of the site, Merryweather told La Jolla Light: “This is a natural area that we want to keep natural. We don’t want bathrooms or drinking fountains; just a place for people to enjoy nature. When the City came to us and said they wanted to create more park space, I recommended this spot because I know we are short of park space. But I don’t want to take the natural-ness away. I love that it is so wild, and we have so few places that are still wild ... it just needs to be cleaned up.”
She estimates La Jolla is 18.5 acres short of the desired amount of park land, the approximate size of Pottery Canyon open space.
“This is in the City’s inventory but not being used,” she said. “I thought this could be a great place for kids picnics or small gatherings. But the parking lot needs to be graded and I’d like to see a couple of benches and tables installed.”
The so-called parking lot is a makeshift area with a path wide enough for a car that can pulled up and stop at a horizontal tree stump.
“It just needs to be defined a little bit more, so you can recognize that it’s a parking lot,” Merryweather said. “Unless you have been here before, you wouldn’t know.”
At the entrance, signage indicates the rules for use, including park hours, that fires are prohibited, guns and other firearms are prohibited, dogs must be leashed, and an advisory not to destroy animal or plant life. There is also a rattlesnake advisory and suggestions on avoiding contact with them.
To the left, a narrow path opens a walking path about a quarter-mile long that leads to a clearing.
“Some trees need to be cut out of here, as eucalyptus have a short shallow root system and they tend to fall over … and they are flammable, so they can be a matchbox waiting to be lit,” Merryweather opined.
“The path itself is fine, but some of the vegetation needs to be trimmed.” Other trees that have already fallen need to be removed, she added.
And while some nearby residents agree the park needs some care, the idea of bringing more people to the area is not without its opposition.
“It’s a nice little neighborhood park,” one nearby resident (who requested anonymity) said. “All we care about is getting the City to get some of the brush and dead trees out, so we don’t have a devastating fire season. Some vegetation roots are exposed, due to erosion, and we want them to care of that, too, but we don’t want the City to rip out the trees.”
However, he insisted the area is not suitable for large groups of people, and is subject to drainage issues.
“I don’t think people realize how much water comes down the canyon and the backup that can happen,” he said. “There are pipes that need to be redone and the drain needs to be cleared out. The drain is filled with silt and it keeps piling up, so when it rains, the water just pours out when it comes down the hill.
“I agree, it is a nice spot to walk, you just can’t put that many people here and preserve the wildlife. There are also rattlesnakes and other animals, so people need to be careful if they walk here or bring dogs ... the Parks Department just needs to clean the trails.”
— La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets 4 p.m. Monday, July 22 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollaparksbeaches.org