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Shoreline parks patroller details first year on the job

It’s been one year (well, almost) since Parish Rye took the position of Shoreline Park Ranger to patrol La Jolla’s parks. His coverage area begins at Tourmaline Park (on the border between La Jolla and Pacific Beach) and continues up to Torrey Pines Gliderport, covering everything in between — including Children’s Pool, La Jolla Cove, Scripps Park, Kellogg Park and smaller pocket parks.

Rye began his patrol in January and on Dec. 7 gave a summary report to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) committee during its monthly meeting at the Rec Center. He revealed to the group the most common violations noted, and a snapshot of crime statistics. The list he presented did not include the number of citations written, but the number of times Rye contacted someone about a violation. Ranger Rye is not a police officer.

LJP&B chair Dan Allen said, “This report will tell us how things are at our parks. There are issues we’ve noticed and heard complaints about over the years, and the community has asked why the city doesn’t do (something).”

With more than 10 years of patrolling other areas of San Diego, chiefly Balboa Park, Rye reported he has a compliance rate of “100 percent” — people are willing to comply with the law, when it’s pointed out to them. The first two months of his La Jolla patrol, he said, involved primarily observation. “I needed to see who was doing what and what the problems were.”

But over the subsequent months, the issues that would occupy Rye’s time began to unfold. The most frequent included off-leash/prohibited dogs, “disturbances,” and parking and traffic issues.

Rye reported a total of 186 contacts for off-leash dogs or dogs on-leash during restricted hours. Dogs are prohibited (even on leash) in Scripps Park after 9 a.m. and permitted after 4 p.m. during the winter months and after 6 p.m. otherwise. Similarly, in Kellogg Park and on the La Jolla Shores boardwalk, dogs are prohibited from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

He said the majority of contacts involved restricted hour issues. “I personally have not come across a huge number of off-leash violations. My contacts have mostly been over hours when tourists don’t know you can’t have a dog, even on-leash, during certain times of day.”

Rye noted that there are signs along the boardwalk in La Jolla Shores explaining the rules. “I’m a big advocate for signage, because it’s the same speech over and over again. But in all 186 cases, the response was ‘Yes sir, I understand, I’ll comply.’ This goes all the way down to Tourmaline Park and Calumet Park in Bird Rock,” he said. “It’s a big issue in Calumet Park. I’ve made a lot of enemies down there. But I’ve made a few friends, too.”

Rye said there were eight contacts pertaining to non-pinniped animals, including an adventurous dog. “There was one dog that refused to stay in the backyard, whose owner actually lives right around here (near the Rec Center), and we were able to convince the homeowner to fill in the hole in the fence. I include that in animal non-pinniped,” he said. Other animal calls included injured birds and wildlife.

Rye said there were nin contacts over “disturbances.” “Disturbances are basically a fight that isn’t a fight yet. I would get involved and separate people ready to fight and calm the situation. These are not incidences, but they could have been,” he reported.

Of the more than 170 traffic or parking violations, many involved vehicles parked or stopped in a red zone. He said there were 125 contacts about red zone violations, with an additional 42 violations involving busses parking in a red zone to unload passengers at La Jolla Cove.

“The 125 contacts were mostly at Kellogg Park on the east end, where everyone gets out and unloads (while parked in a red zone) and I have to figure out how to stop them from doing that. ... Because as soon as I drive I away, I look in my rearview mirror and see a row of cars doing it again,” he said.

There were also five contacts for vehicles parked in a handicap-access space, which Rye noted can cost around $700 in fines. “I also participated in several meetings with the police department for issues relating to traffic violations,” he said.

There were other activities in which he played a secondary or tertiary role, he said, assisting other rangers or lifeguards. For example, he helped with crowd control and vehicle traffic during three suicide attempts and four auto accidents.

Further, during missing children situations, Rye said lifeguards often handle the search, but he is occasional flagged by a frantic parent and gets involved.

In his first year, Rye assisted in five missing children searches. All five were found.

Notable statistics from patrolling La Jolla’s parks:

26 contacts with ice cream trucks or other illegal vendors

20 alcohol violations

18 smoking violations

12 contacts for slack-lining, mostly in Kellogg Park

10 violations of tent regulations (rangers must be able to see all the way through a tent to thwart drug use and lewd and lascivious behavior).

3 contacts for Marine Protected Area issues, include catch violations

3 contacts to assist Ranger Rich Belesky at Children’s Pool

3 vandalism reports

2 “welfare” checks of someone unconscious in the park

1 child molestation report, in which a couple reported a man taking pictures of children at WindanSea Beach.

There were 13 “criminal” contacts, including fights, reports of knives calls, tire slashing, domestic violence, drug sales, intoxicated persons, DUI and lewd comments.

There were 18 “public safety” reports, including helping a child who fell out of a tree and broke his wrist (Rye worked with lifeguards on that) and transient camps.

Within the “other” category, Rye includes glass in the park (non-alcohol), stolen bags from a beach, loud music, removal of city property and a 911 call about a sea lion being harassed.

All said, Allen commented, “It sounds like, in my mind, your activities justify the addition of this position.”

The $115,000 for the shoreline park ranger and associated equipment was part of the fiscal year 2015 budget approved by the San Diego City Council on June 9, 2014.

City Council President Sherri Lightner, whose district covers La Jolla, advocated for the ranger posting.