County Sustainability Projects Nationally Recognized


The National Association of Counties (NACo) released its 2021 program of Achievement Award recipients last month, recognizing counties throughout the country for innovative programming and services that better their communities. As in years past, the County of San Diego received dozens of awards for a wide range of projects in categories including community and economic development, administration, health, risk management, and information technology. Of the 51 total County projects that received a NACo award, here are a few standout sustainability efforts.

Providing Recreation for All

Sweetwater Bike ParkSweetwater Bike Park

Sweetwater Bike Park
NACo Category: Parks & Recreation

Within the river valley park of Sweetwater Regional Park, the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) opened a 4.2-acre dirt bike park that features three progressive jump lines ranging from beginner to expert, two flow trails with wall rides, two pump tracks for kids and adults, a progressive skill zone, and a perimeter trail. The facility design incorporated feedback from all ages, skill levels, and specialty riders, which provided quality and safety controls.

Estrella ParkEstrella Park

Estrella Park
NACo Category: Parks & Recreation

Estrella Park is 6.6-acres and located in the Valle de Oro community in San Diego County. Undeveloped since 1977, this park now provides unique recreational opportunities within walking distance to nearby residents. Improvements include a nature play area, an amphitheater, picnic area, suspension bridge, boardwalk, and trails. The proximity to several schools and the Spring Valley Teen Center, combined with the natural wetland, make Estrella Park ideal for inclusion into DPR’s existing nature interpretive programs.

Virtual Recreation Center
NACo Category: Parks & Recreation

In March 2020, DPR changed the way it did business. Live events were put on hold and some facilities and amenities were closed due to public health guidelines. In just two weeks, DPR launched a Virtual Recreation Center complete with virtual hikes and tours, video tutorials, printable coloring sheets and activity books, and more. DPR’s Virtual Recreation Center has made it possible for staff to keep the lines of communication open and to provide uninterrupted, albeit altered, services in an era when parks and access to recreation are paramount to community physical and mental health and wellness.

Dark skyDark skies

Preserving our Dark Sky

Light Pollution Ordinance
NACo Category: Community and Economic Development

Amendments to the light pollution chapter of the County of San Diego’s zoning ordinance helped specific communities meet International Dark-Sky Association's (IDA) standards and qualify as International Dark-Sky Communities (IDSC). The zoning ordinance’s light pollution chapter consisted of Zones A and B within the unincorporated county. The new amendments established a new Zone C applicable to specific communities to help them attain IDSC status. The adopted changes included new lighting standards by regulating light shielding, light levels, light color, and sign illumination.

Monitoring Potential Contaminants

Underground Storage Tank Plan Check
NACo Category: Information Technology

Underground storage tanks (USTs) can contain hazardous substances such as petroleum commonly found at gas stations. The County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health and Quality (DEHQ) regulates the construction, operation, repair, and removal of USTs. A key component of the UST Program is “plan check” where staff review construction plans for installation of new USTs, UST repairs, and UST system removals. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, UST construction plans were submitted on paper and in person. However, due to the stay-at-home orders issued in March 2020, DEHQ identified a way to transition to a virtual or online process. Using email and existing County software, UST plan-check applications are now submitted, reviewed and approved in an electronic format. Fees are processed online, and approved permits and plans can be electronically distributed to contractors and business owners and accessed by field staff at construction inspections. Pivoting to an online process streamlines operations, allows for quicker turnaround time, and is projected to have an annual 6%, or $28,000, cost savings for the program.