Lake Murray fireworks

Posted: November 25th, 2016 | Features, Top Stories | No Comments

By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large

Group works to revive July 4 celebration

There is a move afoot in the Lake Murray area to relight the day-long Fourth of July music festival and fireworks display that went away five years ago as a result of a lawsuit by environmental lawyers.

The Coastkeepers’ legal actions forced the cancellation of the annual party because of possible contamination of the water of the lake, which is a major reservoir for the city of San Diego.

As often happens with such lawsuits, a settlement was agreed to that basically set up a new mechanism for handling environmental impact reports before permits are granted for such displays. Prior to the settlement, EIR’s were not required.


Fourth of July concerts like this one from 2010 may soon return to Lake Murray. (Photo by Don Brennan)

Tracy Dahlkamp is the chair of the fireworks committee working to get the festival back on track.

“We love that this is another opportunity to bring our community together,” she said. “We’ve heard over and over again how much this event has been missed.”

Committee co-chair Jay Wilson echoes the sentiment.

“It’s just great that all these families have an interest in bringing the fireworks back,” he said.

As they proceed, it’s worth remembering that much of this will be in remembrance of well-known and much-beloved community activist John Pilch, who passed away last May.

There is now a clearly defined path for them to follow, and it begins with Cindy Kodama, head of the city’s Special Events office.

“There’s a lot to it, but it can be done if everybody follows the steps outlined by CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act,” Kodama said. “There are a lot of agencies and departments involved, and they’ll all need to sign off on the application in order for this to happen.

“Ideally, we’d like to have everything done and in our hands at least 60 days before the event. There’s a 12-page application that has to be done, and an environmental assessment completed. There’ll need to be a production meeting with all the relevant agencies involved.”

There are a lot of relevant agencies. The list seems daunting, but they all need to sign off: Parks and Recreation, Water, Storm Water, police from both San Diego and La Mesa, San Diego and La Mesa fire departments, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and any and all private contractors that may be involved in the fireworks and cleanup.

There will be fees involved for all the various reports and paperwork, but they are not terribly expensive — just numerous.

Dalhkamp says the committee plans to go to area businesses and merchants for support for the efforts, selling sponsorships.

“We’ve already heard from a number of local businesses, saying they’d like to be involved,” she said. “We may also try to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, and we’re looking at a GoFundMe effort as well. We think there’ll be a lot of support as we get closer to the date. We hope to raise $60-$75,000 to make the fireworks return a big success.”

The Lake Murray music and fireworks festival was one of the most popular Independence Day events in San Diego and La Mesa. (Photo by Brett Alan,

The Lake Murray music and fireworks festival was one of the most popular Independence Day events in San Diego and La Mesa. (Photo by Brett Alan,

The committee wants to make the reborn festival even bigger and better than it was before it went away. That’ll take some doing, but they seem up to the task.

For more information on how to get involved in the effort to bring back the Lake Murray fireworks and music festival, or to make a donation, contact Tracy Dahlkamp at

—Doug Curlee is Editor at Large. Reach him at

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