Is Boomer Beach the next kiddie pool? Beach access advocates fear imminent closure


For La Jolla beach access advocates who have watched the city of San Diego slowly move over the past 20 years to seasonally close the children’s pool, the evolving situation at Boomer Beach offers an already -seen junk.

Both are pocket beaches that have historically been used by snorkelers and swimmers. Both are now best known for the presence of pinnipeds: harbor seals at the children’s pool and sea lions at Boomer Beach.

The children’s pool beach is closed to the public during the annual harbor seal pupping season (recognized from December to May). Marine mammal advocates have encouraged doing the same at Boomer Beach and Point La Jolla during sea lion calving season (June to October). Although these efforts have been halted so far, some fear that something is yet to happen.

To try to prevent Boomer Beach and Point La Jolla (a rocky area between La Jolla Cove Beach and Boomer Beach, where sea lions often come ashore to rest) from having a seasonal closure, members of the divers presented a letter to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches at its July 26 meeting to send the city the importance of beach access for people.

“Boomer Beach is located at the southern end of Point La Jolla and is a unique area for bodysurfers,” the letter read in part. “Part of the reason Boomer Beach was made a flotation-free zone was due to the quality of the waves at this unique beach. Accordingly, we ask that historic access to Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach be preserved. for bodysurfers, anglers, divers, swimmers and sunbathers.

LJP&B member Ken Hunrichs said: “I have flashbacks to 15-20 years ago when we started arguing about the kiddie pool. The situation at Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach is shaping up to be the same arguments.

“We have the right to access the coast and the right to fish in our waters. We know there has been a problem with overpopulation of pinnipeds… which have moved from one side of The Cove to the other. La Jolla is a beach community. If you can’t get to the beaches anymore, why do we need them? We are following the same pattern of division as 20 years ago.

The council voted to send the letter to the city, with trustees Jane Reldan and Tim Seery dissenting without comment.

The discussion was prompted by a June 15 request from the Sierra Club Seal Society and Sierra Club San Diego, citing harassment of sea lions and their cubs, for Mayor Todd Gloria to declare an emergency and temporarily close Point La Jolla to the public during the sea lion pupping season, while keeping the viewing area open from an adjacent wall.

David Rolland, senior communications adviser in Gloria’s office, told the La Jolla Light when “closing Point La Jolla would require [California] Coastal Commission approval, and it is unlikely to be granted quickly. The mayor is open to exploring this longer-term option if the stakeholders and relevant regulators can reach consensus on a solution. He said the city would focus on a signage program to inform visitors to stay away from sea lions.

The city finished installing signage in July, posting signs and stenciled messages on trash cans, sidewalks and the short wall that borders Point La Jolla. Some signs say “Keep Back: Sea Lion Birthplace”. Others warn that sea lions can bite and that harassing them is against the law. The stencil reads “Do not approach mothers or cubs” and “Do not approach sea lions”.

New signs posted in Point La Jolla urge swimmers to keep away from sea lions.

(Courtesy of Robyn Davidoff)

However, at the July 26 LJP&B meeting, Hunrichs said the “wall of signs” and Sierra Club guides who are often on site act as a “psychological barrier” deterring people from accessing the beach.

“Whether it’s a physical barrier or a psychological barrier, the barrier is there,” Hunrichs said. “We’re asking the city to try a different solution this time because they failed the kiddie pool.”

San Diego Divers Council member Volker Hoehne told the board that Point La Jolla has been a “historic site” for divers “since the sport began.” For those using it, closing public access “would be like closing the Vatican”, he said.

Sierra Club San Diego chapter manager Richard Miller noted that the California Coastal Act “requires people to have access to the beach. So if there is a closure, it will not be a permanent closure, it will necessarily be temporary. »

Steve Hadley, representing the office of Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said no official action is planned to close the area in any capacity.

Unconvinced, LJP&B member Melinda Merryweather said: “That’s exactly what happened at the kiddie pool. [People said] “Oh no, we don’t intend to shut people down, that’s not what we intend to do.” But that’s exactly what they intend to do.

The next kiddie pool?

Noting that the current seasonal children’s pool closure has gone on for years and piecemeal, some fear Boomer Beach could become like this.

La Jolla's children's pool is closed to the public for five months a year, in keeping with the harbor seal whelping season.

La Jolla’s children’s pool is closed to the public for five months a year, in keeping with the harbor seal whelping season.

(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

“Most people who know the story of the kiddie pool see this parody repeat itself … in Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach,” Hunrichs told the Light. “There seems to be no limit to the number of pests the city will tolerate in an urban area.”

Citing harassment of harbor seals and their pups during pupping season, animal rights groups began their quest to separate pinnipeds and humans in the early 2000s. A rope barrier was installed and dismantled, and attempts to use the rope to keep people away from animals while advocating shared use took nearly a decade.

In 2010, the city approved a 130-foot rope to separate humans and harbor seals during whelping season. It would be installed at the beginning of December 15 and would descend on May 16.

In 2012, the rope was extended to 152 feet, leaving a 3-foot opening for divers and spearfishers. That same year, the city approved a permit to install and maintain the rope barrier year-round.

The decision to close the kiddie pool entirely during whelping season was approved by the city council on March 18, 2014, and by the state coastal commission soon after.

Currently, the beach is closed from December 15 to May 15 each year by means of a chain barrier across the mid-level stairs. A rope barrier intended as a visual deterrent to keep humans away from harbor seals is in place the rest of the year. ◆


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