Beach fire pits saved by private-public partnership
By Dave Schwab
The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (SDCVB) joined the mayor and city councilmembers Sherri Lightner and Kevin Faulconer today at a press conference announcing $65,000 worth of contributions toward the estimated $120,000 needed to keep and maintain the 186 fire pits at city beaches and Mission Bay.
“We have a great coalition put together working cooperatively to find the funds necessary to keep the fire pits on our beach,” said Joe Terzi, president/CEO of SDCVB, which has partnered with The San Diego Foundation, La Jolla Community Foundation and the San Diego Hotel-Motel Association to save the beach amenity.
“A key component in a lot of the promotional work we do features fire pits, these iconic symbols,” Terzi added. “Fire pits have become part of the beach culture. It’s one of those elements we don’t want to see go away.”
The SDCVB donated $25,000 to save fire pits presented in the form of an oversize check.
First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner noted La Jolla Shores, which she represents, only has 7 fire pits. But she added, “They’re always used, and I rather imagine there are never any vacant fire pits in the city of San Diego during the summertime.”
Mayor Jerry Sanders “toasted” fire pits saying “the tradition of these bonfires has been enjoyed by San Diegans for generations … Here’s to the families and visitors who enjoy the crackle of a bonfire and the taste of toasted marshmellows.”
Noting most of the fire pits are in his 2nd Council District, Kevin Faulconer said, “All of us, collectively, we saved the fire pits. I am very aware of how special these fire pits are. I am so very proud of the public-private partnership that we’re here today to unveil to keep these fire pits going.”
Bob Kelly of The San Diego Foundation said the nonprofit is pledging $35,000 toward saving the fire pits, the third year it has supported the fundraising effort.
“There’s no question people love the fire pits,” he concluded.
The La Jolla Community Foundation contributed $4,500 toward fire pits. Phyllis Pfeiffer, chair of the nonprofit, commented that the primary goal of the group is to “create public spaces that bring people together and help build a sense of community: So the fire pits were a natural for us.”
Mayor Jerry Sanders cut maintenance of fire pits from next year’s budget, something he has done several times in recent years. But private donations have always kept the popular concrete rings or squares in operation.
It’s estimated that maintenance will cost at least $120,000 in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Some of the same groups contributed to saving the fire rings when they were about to be axed last year. An anonymous donor saved them three years ago.
Tourism industry officials feared the loss of the fire rings would take away one of San Diego’s best selling points, the chance for normally landlocked visitors to experience a beach bonfire.
County News Service contributed to this article.
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