New Diamond Valley Lake recreation plans moving forward

The Hemet City Council Chamber was filled with police officers, sheriff’s deputies and Explorers to pay tribute to Hemet Police K-9 Officer “Jack” who died of cancer after almost six years of service with the department.  Tony Ault photo
The Hemet City Council Chamber was filled with police officers, sheriff’s deputies and Explorers to pay tribute to Hemet Police K-9 Officer “Jack” who died of cancer after almost six years of service with the department. Tony Ault photo

It has been many years, but for the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto the dream of creating an area surrounding Diamond Valley Lake into a major regional recreation park is finally taking shape with a memorandum of intent signed by the five major entities involved.

The long-sought MOI now signed by the city of Hemet, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District, Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District and Eastern Municipal Water District was revealed Tuesday, April 25, at the Hemet City Council meeting.

Paul Jones, EMWD general manager, made the presentation at the Hemet City Council with Councilman Russ Brown absent, and reviewed the general plans for the major regional recreation project that will be built mostly on the eastern side of the Diamond Valley Dam.

The plans call for seven new recreational projects adjacent to and around the lake, in addition to expanding the already world-class popular sports park. Jones, showing a map of the lake and surrounding areas, noted the plans call for a new system of running, jogging and biking trails below and around the dams with rest areas and shelters, including one linking Diamond Valley Lake to Lake Skinner on the south. It also includes a potential swimming and small boating lagoon, a camping and RV location, Metropolitan Water District welcome center, an expanded Valley-Wide Aquatic Center and sports complex and a better, more direct, 24-hour access road in and out of Diamond Valley Lake Marina with wildlife undercrossing.

Jones said the MOI was created by representatives not only from the major entities but with members of the Soboba Indian Tribe, local businessmen and the surrounding cities. The meetings were held 8 times over a 14-month period before the MOI was completed.

“It is really a consensus-based project with many ideas presented,” Jones said.

The projects would be completed in a 10-year process through the cooperation of all the agencies. Jones said the MOI agencies will soon conduct a public hearing on the potential projects and learn what more the public might want in the project that would bring greater economic and recreational benefits not only the Diamond Valley Lake area, but to the entire western region and Inland Valley area.

The projects, Jones said, would need to be funded by a number of different public agencies, outside private industry with public and private ownership possibilities.

“We are happy to see this come to fruition,” Councilwoman Bonnie Wright said.

Councilman Michael Perciful pointed out the recreational improvements at the lake will spur needed economic development to the community.

“We have been waiting a long time for this,” Perciful said. “It is a move in the right direction.”

Mayor Linda Krupa thanked Jones for his presentation and explained how in the meetings there were not always agreements between the parties but in the end the MOI was created to everyone’s satisfaction. Jones said the Metropolitan Water District was “very supportive” of the plans in the MOI.

The earlier part of the April 22 Hemet City Council meeting saw the entire city council chambers filled with numerous police officers and fire officials all coming together to honor “Jack,” a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois. He was the Hemet Police Department’s K-9 handled by Officer Matt Gomez that died of cancer Sunday, April 23.

“Jack” who was instrumental in assisting the department 1,834 times and capturing numerous suspects in his short life, was credited with saving Officer Gomez’s life in March 2014 by taking down a suspected gang member armed with a .357 Magnum that went off during his capture.

“Jack” was the first active-duty K-9 to die in the Hemet Police Department’s history, according to Police Chief Dave Brown.

“Rest in Peace Jack,” Brown said. “You will be sorely missed.”

Krupa presented Officer Gomez a plaque with pictures of “Jack” with his paw print and a special commendation for Jack’s service.

Brown also made a special announcement indicating that after testing and interview Officer Gomez has been promoted to the rank of detective in the department. The announcement brought cheers and applause from members of the police force and council.

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