Bu JENNIFER MORRISSEY
In addition to the great news of the $1.5 million grant from the state to help build a bridge at the San Diego River Crossing Trail, we have more good news to share. After a more than 18-month closure due to the pandemic, the Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center (VC) has reopened part time, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., on Friday through Sunday, and the Kumeyaay Lake Campground has reopened and is taking weekend reservations. The 46-site campground offers a quick, affordable “staycation” and is a great place for little ones’ first campouts. Book your reservation soon (and at least two days in advance) through the park’s website because the campsites are filling up fast.
As we ease back into the Visitor Center’s reopening, we have two requests of our neighbors. First, come for a visit — we’ve missed you! Catch up with our volunteers at the front desk to learn more about the park’s trails and all that the Visitor Center has to offer.
Opened in 1995, the 14,000-square-foot, award-winning Visitor Center was the first joint project between the City of San Diego and the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation, which itself was established in 1988 as the nonprofit dedicated to supporting the park.
When you visit the VC, check out our new “Welcome to Mission Trails” exhibit in the downstairs exhibition area, and you’re sure to learn something new.
The primary way to access the upstairs exhibits is via a ramp, through which is a tunnel-like stretch that is noise activated and features the sounds of the park’s nocturnal animals. As many parents can attest, children love passing through this dimly lit space to activate the sounds and, maybe, get just a little bit scared.
One of the newer upstairs exhibits focuses on the park’s Nest Box program. The installation includes a life-sized tree and “occupied” nest boxes that replicate the more than 100 we have in the park, monitored each year by a group of dedicated volunteers.
One of the many ways you can support Mission Trails is by shopping the Visitor Center’s gift shop. Not only can you pick up Mission Trails T-shirts, hats, and other branded merchandise, but there are books, cards, toys, hand-carved bowls, and pottery and baskets crafted by Kumeyaay artisans. As you plan gift giving, please consider a quick trip down to the Visitor Center for a gift that gives twice, to both your recipient and MTRP. If you have a 5-Peak Challenge finisher in your house who doesn’t yet have one of the 5-Peak shirts, we have the perfect gift for you.
In addition to coming to the Visitor Center, we are looking for more volunteers to fill regular and occasional shifts. You can share your knowledge and love of Mission Trails with visitors from near and far, get to know fellow members of the MTRP community and have a better sense of the park’s history and innerworkings.
In this role as a volunteer with the MTRP Foundation, you’ll meet the park’s rangers and other City of San Diego staff, working closely with Foundation staff. All volunteers are well trained and supported, receive a 20% discount in the gift shop, and an invitation to the parkwide annual awards dinner, all the while having fun and improving visitors’ experience of Mission Trails.
To learn more about volunteering at the VC, please visit our homepage at www.mtrp.org.
— Jennifer Morrissey is executive director of the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation.