As I recently wrote about, Balboa Park is a city treasure, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. It is also home to many high-speed roads which greatly diminish the quality of the park, use large amounts of high-value land, and pose health dangers immediate (being crushed by a car) and long-term (developing asthma and other disease due to very poor air quality in San Diego). It is time to eliminate the most superfluous high-speed road in Balboa Park – Florida Drive.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park and there would be no better way to celebrate that than by returning a significant portion of the park to it’s natural state. (Or at least we can offset the deletion of another canyon in Balboa Park by the San Diego Zoo that is currently approaching completion.) We can expand the size of the open park space, and the quality, by closing Florida Drive to automobile traffic. To avoid inconvenience to cars – which must be the first consideration for a conversation to even start – this would only be a closure of Florida Drive from Morley Field Drive to Zoo Place.
San Diego’s canyons are a tremendous asset for the city and residents. They are a tiny foothold for local flora and fauna in our beautiful and bio-diverse region. They provide an opportunity for our youth to experience the outdoors in their backyards, across the city. They show that we value nature, heritage, and the environment. They are well worth protecting and in this case, worth restoring.
Florida Drive mirrors Park Boulevard and a closure of this portion of Florida would have little to no impact on vehicle traffic. It certainly would not cause back-ups. At the same time, it would provide a peaceful setting for those enjoying the canyon and an expanded sanctuary for the snakes, lizards, birds, and other animals that call this area home. A park should be a park, not an extended Interstate on-ramp that is a park in name only.
How to proceed:
- Immediately install temporary concrete bollards blocking Florida Drive to automobile traffic at the Intersection of Morley Field Drive and Zoo Place.
- Monitor traffic counts on adjacent roadways to determine impact on traffic flows and overall safety for a 6-month period.
- Remove three-quarters of Florida Drive (East side) and replant with native trees which will flourish in the natural creek setting of the canyon bed. Convert remaining one-quarter to a two-way bike path and install a gravel running path on the West side of the pavement.
- Enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of a greatly improved piece of San Diego’s premier park, all done at little cost and with great benefit that will only increase in the coming years.
We can do this, and so much more to make our city better. All we have to do is choose to do so.