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Lagoon foundation doubles size of nature center – The San Diego Union

Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation volunteers are working double-time to get their new nature center ready to open before summer begins.

The center’s former home, a trailer left over from the lagoon’s $57 million dredging and restoration project in the mid-1990s, has been hauled away. In its place is a new double-wide trailer purchased by the foundation for about $211,000, most of which was grant money from Carlsbad and San Diego County.

The old building was small, dark and crowded, but it became home to the foundation’s devoted volunteers.

“They just moved one of their construction trailers over to us,” said foundation President Fred Sandquist. “It served us pretty well. When I saw them towing it out, it was a sad thing.”

The new building has twice as much interior space, with room for a private office and a storage area, and a garage for the foundation’s trail vehicle and a workshop. Also, volunteers are building a large outdoor deck on the front of the building.

The nature center is near the beginning of a 2-mile trail that starts at the end of Gabbiano Way, east of Interstate 5, and follows the north shore of the lagoon most of the way to El Camino Real.

photoThe new nature center at Batiquitos Lagoon will be big enough to allow for more exhibits and a children’s area.— Peggy Peattie

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The new nature center at Batiquitos Lagoon will be big enough to allow for more exhibits and a children's area.

The new nature center at Batiquitos Lagoon will be big enough to allow for more exhibits and a children’s area. — Peggy Peattie

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For now the center is closed and empty, though the trail remains open to hikers and joggers. Sandquist said the new building should be ready by the end of the month. The center’s hours are 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Efforts to secure the new building have been in the works more than seven years, Sandquist said. In addition to obtaining the grant money, the foundation needed numerous permits and approvals from the city and state, and from the Aviara Master Association, which owns the property the center and the trail are on. Aviara is a 1,000-acre master planned community just north of the lagoon.

Foundation board member Don Omsted looked over the wooden frames he’d built in the sprinkling rain Thursday morning for the deck’s concrete footers. The 14 footers, each about 2-feet-square, will provide solid support for the 12-by-46-foot deck.

“We engineered it for a restaurant,” Omsted said. “It can hold 40 people.”

A former schoolteacher and longtime Encinitas resident, Omsted lives in a house he built himself on a hill overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon. He helped install the nature center’s new trailer, built a retaining wall beside it, and designed the deck.

“Instead of a traditional (wooden) railing, we are going to have stainless steel and wire,” he said. “The beauty of it is it preserves the view, and the safety factor is probably better than wood.”

The deck and new nature center are in the same spot as the old center, only slightly higher, and will have a commanding view of the surrounding tidal wetlands, the lagoon, and a long stretch of Interstate 5 in the distance.

photoThe front windows of the new nature center at Batiquitos Lagoon will overlook the deck, the wetlands and the lagoon.— Peggy Peattie

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The front windows of the new nature center at Batiquitos Lagoon will overlook the deck, the wetlands and the lagoon.

The front windows of the new nature center at Batiquitos Lagoon will overlook the deck, the wetlands and the lagoon. — Peggy Peattie

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“We’ll have much better displays and room for classes for kids,” Omsted said. The nature center regularly hosts elementary school classes for segments on science, nature and the environment.

The nature center is connected to the 544-acre Batiquitos Lagoon Ecological Reserve, which is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Warren Wong, a wildlife biologist with the state department, visited the center Thursday for a look at the unfolding progress.

“It’s awesome that they are getting a new center,” Wong said. “I know it’s been in the works for a long time.”

Educational programs at the center are good for the public and the wildlife, he said.

“The ecological reserves are set up for rare and endangered species, but the interaction with the public is important as well,” Wong said.

Batiquitos is one of three lagoons in Carlsbad and among seven in San Diego County.

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