The San Diego River Park Foundation

Connect Create Conserve

San Diego, CA   |


Our mission is to create a better future for the San Diego River through volunteerism, advocacy, education, and championing the creation of a river-long park system. We are a San Diego based 501c3 nonprofit that started as an all volunteer group and remain grounded in engaging people through volunteerism. Before the pandemic, we engaged more than 7000 volunteers. We believe in targeting our programs to make a meaningful impact for the river, its ecosystem and San Diego. Our mission is to work toward a day where nature and people live in synergy. A world where being outdoors in nature is accessible and valued. A place that works to conserve our vanishing species and values their intrinsic beauty. A place where we find wonder and awe in nature and integrate it our daily lives.

Ruling year info


President and CEO

Mr. Rob Hutsel

Main address

PO Box 80126

San Diego, CA 92138 USA

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NTEE code info

Water Resource, Wetlands Conservation and Management (C32)

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

Community, Neighborhood Development, Improvement (S20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The San Diego River is a remarkable treasure. Considered both the birthplace of our region as well as a biodiversity hotspot of global significance. What would normally be a sense of civic pride for decades was largely ignored and suffered during the building booms that San Diego experienced. The San Diego River Park Foundation seeks to engage people in caring for this amazing system. We seek to foster new generations which see nature as something to benefit from - not destroy. Something that adds value, not something to be altered. We seek a world were everyone benefits from nature and everyone has access to it. We believe that by first inspiring people and then engaging them. Great things can happen. We believe that hope for survival of wildlife species at risks depends upon and engaged and informed public. Sadly, there are many challenges that nature faces from encampments, climate change, and development to meet a growing population. We set out to do something about it.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Trash Free River

Our goal is simple, to have a river which is free of trash. We organize volunteers to document, map, and cleanup the river. We also collaborate with agencies, private landowners and managers, and others to address systemic sources of the trash we remove.

Our program has earned a national reputation of being effective and resourceful! We mostly utilize highly trained, dedicated volunteers for 2 - 3 targeted cleanups each week. We also have dedicated teams which 2 - 3 times per week document and map trash with a phone app we developed. The information is available on a public web portal.

To date our program has removed nearly 3 million pounds of trash from the riverbed and nearby tributaries.

Recently with increases in encampments in the riverbed, we have worked to advocate for additional resources to assist these people that are experiencing homelessness.

Population(s) Served
Homeless people

Save the Source is our program to conserve the beautiful upper San Diego River through land acquisitions and management. We have acquired more than 2000 acres of strategic properties to conserve for their ecological, watershed, and scenic values. This programs also manages these lands.

We continue to pursue conservation of key properties and work to develop appropriate recreation programs to better connect people with this amazing area.

We have identified three core land acquisition targets for conservation which are essential so that the ecosystem of the river is connected to a larger regional and beyond preserve system. The San Diego River has a unique role in this system because of the way that it cuts across the County. We also believe that protected lands needs stewards, people that are passionate protectors of the land. For these reasons we are advancing program as well as working with partners to provide appropriately placed recreation trails.

Population(s) Served

As the only non-profit with a river-long area of interest, since our founding in 2001 SDRPF has taken a leading role in advancing the 52 mile river-long park system. We completed the San Diego River Park Conceptual Plan in 2003 and have worked with our public agency and nongovernmental partners to advance this vision. With the 2013 adoption of the City of San Diego's River Park Master Plan for 17.5 miles of the River, 2013 was a banner year for SDRPF. In 2014, we will focus our energy on Advancing the San Diego River Trail in the City of Santee and the City of SanteeContinuing to work with landowners to advance the River Trail as they redevelop their propertiesAdvance the Discovery Center at Grant Park which will be the River's primary interpretive center, a 17 acre nature-based park and education centerSeek opportunities to advance parks, public art and other enhancements along the River TrailWork in the upper reaches of the River to advance planning for the San Diego River Trail as it connects with trails in the Cleveland National Forest.

Population(s) Served

We believe that experience is the best teacher. Our education and engagement programs are designed to provide hands-on experiences for people of all ages, foster a better understanding of the value of the San Diego River as an ecological, cultural, and recreational resource, and to encourage stewardship through emotional connection to the River. Several key components make this accessible to people of all ages and abilities:Hands-on education activities designed for youth ages K-8 emphasize the living things that rely on the River, such as bugs, fish, and plantsPreserves and native plant gardens along the River provide opportunities for the public to explore and care for the RiverTrail Connect: this interactive trail signage (developed with support from The San Diego Foundation) allows people of all ages to learn more about the River while in the field using their smart phone or mobile device.Murals and community art projects provide a unique experience and grow community ownership

Population(s) Served

Where we work


Outstanding Community Stewardship Award 2009

Association of Environmental Professionals

River Hero Award 2008

River Network

Environmental Justice Award 2004

Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform

Clearwater Award 2010

Waterfront Center

National Award 2011

Take Pride In America

National Award 2012

Take Pride in America

Affiliations & memberships

San Diego Association of Nonprofits 2008

River Network 2002

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We have a goal of connecting people with nature through the creation of river-long park system which traversed the San Diego Region. In doing so we can serve the more than 3 million residents of this community by providing safe, quality outdoor experiences. Studies show that being outdoors is healthy for the mind and the body.

Due to development partners and planning goals of past decades, the historic San Diego River is an underutilized regional asset. It suffers from neglect which has polluted, fragmented and threatened this globally signficant biological area. We believe that through greater access we can engage new stewards of our natural places, enhance the quality of life in San Diego, and health create a new appreciation for sustainable communities.

1. Advancing formal plans for the River Park system by engaging each municipality along the River as well as the County and the National Forest Service to update corresponding plans or create new ones as needed.

2. To engage people by fostering understand and appreciation for the river so that a growing community voice advocates for a better future for the river and the communities it runs through.

3. Targeted land acquisitions to conserve critical wildlife corridors and iconic landmarks associated with the river as well as providing for trail and other access.

4. Creating signature projects to serve park deficient communities and to provide programs to heighten awareness and understanding of the river including the rich cultural heritage associated with it.

1. We have a dynamic volunteer board of directors which are community leaders. They provide great networks of people to connect with to advance our mission. They are also experienced in business, including nonprofit, affairs which will provide appropriate oversight.

2. Through the national awards we have received we have developed connections across the Country which can assist us, serve as a knowledge base, and advance partnerships at the federal, state and local level.

3. We reach more than 10,000 people on a monthly or better basis through our publications.

4. We are fortunate to have a wonderful, dedicated base of staff and volunteers which are committed to our mission of creating a better future for the San Diego River and the communities along it.

5. We have a track record of success and more than a decade of work learning how to be more effective.

Future Resources and Tools
1. We need to develop better online mapping abilities to engage the public more in our mission
2. If we are successful in our fundraising efforts, we will open the River Center at Grant Park. This facility will give our programs their first base of operation. it will greatly enhance our capacity and visibility in the community and provide as many as 25,000 kids annually with hands-on nature education.
3. As more trails and access points are open to the River Park system, it will be able to serve more people which will provide greater awareness of our organization and our partners. As this is accomplished, we hope to be able to create more volunteer trail guides and patrols so that users not only gain knowledge but also a better sense of security.

1. When we started the San Diego River was neglected, full of trash, inaccessible and largely ignored. We strongly believe that the River now has a voice through our organization. More than 10,000 people have now volunteered with our organization. more than 1.5 million lbs. of trash has been removed through our programs and even more has been removed through our advocacy with the support of public agencies and landowners. We know have been monitoring the river for more than 7 years and so we are able to document the healthy improvements as well as the ongoing challenges. This data collection provides a wealth of information as well as a valuable resource for others. The San Diego River Park Foundation is widely recognized as the leading voice and expert for the river.

2. Our land acquisition and restoration efforts have made significant progress. We have seen endangered wildlife species reture to areas that we have cleaned and restored. We continue to see wildlife enjoy lands that were at risk of being developed that our Save the Source program has conserved. We are much closer to conserving our target of 80% of the lands we identified which needed to be conserve to provide for the sustainability of the river ecosystem through the project of critical habitat areas and wildlife corridors and linkages.

3. the City of San Diego this year adopted a river park master plan for 17.5 miles of the river, this is 1/3 of the total length of the river. This organization was the champion of this effort which took more than 10 years to accomplish. This single accomplishment secures the future of the river and the intent of the City to advance the vision of the River Park system.


The San Diego River Park Foundation

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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The San Diego River Park Foundation

Board of directors
as of 11/22/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Michael Schneider

James Peugh

Tom Sudberry

James Ryan

Charles Berwanger

Michael Beck

Cary Lowe

Phil Pryde

Barbara Palan

William Dahnke

Alan Grant

Alta LLC

James Dawe

Bob Kain

Michael Schneider

Pam Fair

Jack McGrory

Beth Bruton

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/22/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data


No data

Sexual orientation

No data


No data