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Environment & Science

Del Mar Fairgrounds offers $5 million for environmental upgrades



Fair-goers enjoy a ride at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California.
Fair-goers enjoy a ride at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California.
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

The last thing anyone is thinking about at the fair is politics. Roller coasters and corn dogs are more like it. But just down south, the Del Mar Fairgrounds, home to the popular annual San Diego County Fair (which set an attendance record last year) has agreed to pony up $5 million for environmental improvements to the area after much political wrangling.  

For more than a decade, the California Coastal Commission alleges that the 400-acre area has been in violation of a number of their statutes. Bordering the San Dieguito wetlands, the fairgrounds has been charged with a number of infractions over the years, from setting up tents, a pumpkin patch and erecting a concert stage in the vicinity, all unapproved by the commission.

Now that the fair board has agreed to a cease and desist order and won’t dispute the Coastal Commissions jurisdiction over the area, It’s clearly a great deal for the Commission. The fairgrounds will surrender 15% of their parking (namely the south overflow dirt lot), which will be returned to the wetlands. They will also restore a wetlands buffer to the southern and eastern edges of the property of 100 feet and will pay the wetlands coalition $100,000 over five years starting in 2013.

Losing that much parking for such a popular attraction already has some locals worried, both about traffic and the potential of increased parking fees to make up the difference, according to online message boards and comment areas.

The wetlands area has already gone through a considerable upgrade recently to the tune of $90 million dollars, so this new infusion of cash and a big step back by the fair board should go a long way in maintaining the area’s natural habitat.

The Coastal Commission will consider the proposal next month.