Sanders announces plan for nonprofit to help run Balboa Park

A nonprofit group will be established to help the city run Balboa Park and raise money to aid in financing what many consider to be the jewel of San Diego’s park system, Mayor Jerry Sanders announced Monday.

Sanders outlined the formation of a 17-member task force — comprised of officials from Balboa Park’s museums, various arts organizations, planning committees and park, community and historic groups — that will determine how the nonprofit entity will be set up and how it will ultimately work with the city to manage the park.

The task force will meet weekly for the next six months. Its first meeting will be next Monday at 6 p.m. in the Santa Fe Room at the Balboa Park Club.

The panel will be loosely modeled on the nonprofit groups that now run New York City’s Central Park and Forest Park in St. Louis, according to mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing.

Sanders stressed, however, that Balboa Park is not being privatized. He said it will remain under the control of the San Diego Park and Recreation Department.

“I think it’s extremely important to point out that it is not a private conservancy that will operate the park,” Sanders said at a news conference in front of the Lily Pond in Balboa Park.

The idea to create a nonprofit group to help oversee the park comes nearly two years after a report, prepared by The Trust for Public Lands, found that Balboa Park suffers a nearly $240 million backlog of deferred maintenance.

Following the issuance of the report, the Balboa Park Committee, which serves in an advisory capacity to the city, began exploring how the park was funded and governed.

“Through this public process, the Balboa Park Committee concluded that the city of San Diego, by itself, is not capable of providing adequate funding for Balboa Park today and is unlikely to do so in the future,” said Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents the area.

After its nearly yearlong review, the committee recommended the formation of a nonprofit organization to assist in the management of the park and to lead fundraising efforts.

Balboa Park — home to the San Diego Zoo and dozens of museums, gardens and arts venues — was built for the 1915 California-Panama Exposition and gets about 10 million visitors a year.