Favored route to Black's is closed for repairs

Surfers, swimmers and beachgoers will have to find a different way to get down to Black's Beach after UCSD closed its access road to the famous stretch of sand citing safety concerns.

The road closure, according to UCSD and San Diego Lifeguards, follows several incidents mostly caused by the recent heavy rains. They include a mudslide that blocked the road, a large sinkhole in the middle of the thoroughfare and concerns that construction equipment might pose dangers to walkers on the road.

The road offers the only access for vehicles to the beach, and runs from La Jolla Farms Road about a mile from La Jolla Shores Boulevard. The road is only accessible by emergency services and select members of the UCSD community.

A gate at the top of the road is secured by a padlock, allowing access only to those who hold copies of a much-sought-after key. However, it is frequented by a steady stream of surfers, joggers and strollers, who are normally allowed to access the road on foot and who use it as a shortcut down to the beach.

Recently, however, a large sinkhole in the middle of the road, a mudslide and a build-up of debris at its lower reaches have turned the once-clear path into a dangerous obstacle course.

"It was very scary," said Lt. Rick Wurtz, the head lifeguard for La Jolla. "I directed my lifeguards not to drive a truck down it, because I told them, regardless of the issue, I don't want you driving down."

Barry Jagoda, a spokesperson for UCSD, said that the university's Physical Plant Department gave the order to close the road to anyone except emergency vehicles March 17. He said the road would remain closed until requisite repairs have been completed.

The UCSD Police Department stationed a patrol car to turn away would-be road users as soon as the order to close the road was given.

Pat Dobbins, a dispatcher with the UCSD Police Department, said officers were also posted at the entrance to the road over the weekend for the same reason.

While access to the beach is possible from La Jolla Shores to the south, the walk up to Black's Beach takes about 15 minutes from the pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. However, two semi-secret trails leading from the La Jolla Farms neighborhood, known informally as the Ho-Chi-Minh Trail and the Goat Trail, offer a dangerous and possibly illegal alternative route down to the beach.

UCSD Surf Club President Toby Thiermann said many people, surfers especially, will be tempted to take these trails down to the beach rather than making the trip from La Jolla Shores. He estimated that only 1 or 2 percent of surfers turned away from the road would be likely to face the parking difficulties and longer walk from the Shores.

Thiermann warned that the trails are particularly dangerous after heavy rain and that they can be hazardous, especially to the uninitiated.

"If there's heavy traffic, especially of people who are going up and down (the trails) at the same time, then there's a possibility for danger," he said. "I wouldn't guarantee it. I wouldn't feel like I was in danger going down the trails, but if someone's clueless or clumsy, I think there's definitely a possibility that they could get injured."

Thiermann, who has driven down the road and back since the mudslides that led to its closure, had not noticed any increase in the difficulty of traversing the route. In his opinion, UCSD erred in closing the road to foot traffic. He said that

   
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