12 Miles of Early San Diego: Historic La Playa Trail is a Point Loma treasure
There’s a swath of land running through Point Loma that serves as a history lesson on the early days of San Diego. What is now Rosecrans Street used to be the La Playa Trail, which was traversed by some of the earliest settlers.
The Trail — running from the harbor entrance at Ballast Point to the Mission San Diego de Alcala in Mission Valley — is the oldest commercial trail west of the Mississippi River, and has several markers along its path to commemorate early residents. The Trail served as the main link between the mission, old San Diego and La Playa, which was San Diego’s main port until Alonzo Horton’s founding of “new” San Diego in 1869.
To make sure this important part of San Diego’s past is not forgotten, a group of history-minded residents in Point Loma started the La Playa Trail Association (LPTA) in 2005.
There are now 70 registered sites along the Trail, and the goal of the LPTA is to reconstruct, refurbish and add new markers that identify historical sites along the way in an effort to educate the public about Point Loma’s history.
Preservation efforts actually started way back in 1932, when John and Winifred Davidson, curators of the Serra Museum, along with resident George Marston, the local Portuguese community, architect Richard Requa, the San Diego Historical Society, and the San Diego Federation of Women’s Clubs decided to place six concrete markers at key historic points along the Trail. Those original markers featured an ox cart and Indian, and were designed by Old Town sculptor Rose Hanks.
The Roseville Marker was placed at the site of the old Roseville Hotel at Byron and Rosecrans streets; the Loma Portal Marker at Lytton and Rosecrans; the Presidio Marker at the foot of Presidio Hill; and the La Playa Marker at the Naval Fuel Depot in La Playa. Another marker was placed at the Mission San Diego de Alcala, and the sixth one at the corner of Midway and Rosecrans streets.
Since then, three of the markers have been refurbished, and two new ones have been added — the new Roseville Marker at Rosecrans and Avenida de Portugal, and the Chinese Fishermen’s Marker at the north end of La Playa Cove on Talbot Street, which commemorates the fishermen who lived there during the fishing season and built their junks (sailing ships) there.
Point Loma resident Klonie Kunzel is one of the founding members of the LPTA, which is comprised of 15 board members who meet monthly. Kunzel has lived in Point Loma since 1960 and is a second-generation San Diegan.
“My interest in history was sparked by a teacher I had at San Diego High School,” she told Point Loma-OB Monthly. “And I continued on to major in European History at Berkeley. I’m still very interested in our local history. Preserving the Trail gives us a richer sense of where we live and the many people who lived here before us.”
LPTA has no archives nor memorabilia, but it does have bimonthly history lectures at Point Loma Assembly, 3035 Talbot St. The next event, “Write Your Own History,” will be presented by Colleen O’Connor, Claire Wachowiak and Sandi Masori, 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, May 21. The event is open to the public for a $10 donation.
—To learn more, visit laplayatrail.org