170-Year-Old Ruins on San Diego River : Bill Would Fund Repairs to Padre Dam

Times Staff Writer

A face lift and some badly needed structural repairs on the historic ruins of Padre Dam, believed to be the West Coast's oldest waterworks facility, could begin this summer if the Legislature approves a $200,000 grant to the City of San Diego.

Assemblyman Larry Stirling (R-San Diego) said Tuesday that he expects little opposition next week in getting his bill to begin the restoration approved by the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife.

But Stirling said his bill could face considerable resistance later in the Ways and Means Committee, which must approve the expenditure.

Erosion is causing the still-standing sections of the almost 170-year-old stone-and-adobe structure to rapidly settle on the San Diego River bank. Severe structural damage could result if it is not shored up soon, city parks officials say.

Besides, the federal government, which deeded the dam to the city in 1964 on condition that it be maintained and used for recreational purposes, has begun pressuring local officials to do something.

"We haven't done a darn thing," conceded George Loveland, city Park and Recreation Department director.

The dam is a centerpiece of joint city-county plans for developing the 4,400-acre Mission Trails Regional Park. The dam is at the eastern end of Father Junipero Serra Trail in the park.

Restoring the old dam and upgrading the park area immediately surrounding it could cost $500,000 to $1 million, city parks officials say.

But an engineering and architectural consultant hired to determine what needs to be done, and how much it will cost, is not expected to finish the report until July.

"We don't know how much it will cost," said Carol Young, the Park and Recreation Department grants analyst.

She said the design work and preliminary structural repairs could begin this summer, and more extensive work could begin in mid-1986, if the appropriation is approved.

Historians believe the dam, near the Spring Canyon bend in the San Diego River, is about 168 years old.

Work on the dam began around 1803, after a severe turn-of-the-century drought. Historians believe it was finished around 1817.

It was already listed as a national historic monument when the National Park Service gave it to the city in 1964.

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