The county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday took the first step toward easing parking concerns along state Route 67 in Ramona near Mount Woodson and the popular Potato Chip Rock trail.
Supervisors unanimously voted to buy 84 acres of land west of the highway for $1.7 million.
The property, which is owned by the Taylor Family Trust, will allow the county to build a parking lot and add about 75 acres of open space to the area. The county is expected to make the purchase official on March 27.
The acquisition has been talked about for two years, which is when county officials began to seriously look at ways to get the cars off the shoulder of the highway and nearby surrounding streets.
Every day, dozens and sometimes hundred of hikers park their vehicles along the shoulder as motorists traveling at highway speeds drive by.
Roughly a decade ago, social media popularized the Potato Chip Rock hike. At times, there will be so many people that they have to wait 30 minutes or longer just to stand on the thin outcropping.
There are two trails to get to the summit of Mount Woodson. The more difficult hike starts at the Lake Poway parking lot on the west side of the mountain and involves a 7.5-mile round-trip trek. The City of Poway increased the parking at its park to handle the crowds a few years ago and charges non-residents a parking fee on weekends.
The other way to visit the natural attraction is from the east, where hikers park dangerously, but for free, and then hike up a utility road owned by the City of San Diego. That’s a 4-mile round trip.
Neighbors in the area and law enforcement officials have maintained for years the existing parking situation is very dangerous and has led to many accidents and near tragedies.
For instance, sometimes hikers looking for a parking spot will stop on the highway in order to back up into spots along the shoulder.
A parking lot has not yet been designed or approved, but the deal was done with that in mind. Supervisors were told in a staff report the entire project, including land acquisition, design and construction costs would run about $3.5 million.
A couple weeks ago, Supervisor Dianne Jacob said she was excited about the land purchase and a future parking lot.
“It’s been a long time in coming and been a very complicated negotiation, but we’re finally here and I’m hopeful there will be support to allocate the money to purchase this property,” she said.
“This affects the entire region because people all over San Diego enjoy Potato Chip Rock and this is the easiest access point.”
The county has discussed the possibility of a partnership with the City of San Diego, which owns the utility road hikers use to climb the mountain. The proposal would be for the city to operate and maintain the parking lot owned by the county, if the county elects to build it. The city has not committed to operate and maintain the parking lot yet.
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