Remove the Wrack? La Jolla Parks & Beaches hears pros/cons of seaweed cleanup

To rake or not to rake? That is the question.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) board chair Ann Dynes “kicked a hornet’s nest” when she introduced the notion of cleaning up wrack (seaweed that has washed ashore) on La Jolla’s beaches. The idea was brought up between monthly meetings via a chain of e-mails, and debated at the LJP&B meeting Aug. 28.

Discussion included the pros and cons of removing the wrack, and disagreements between the City and LJP&B board members when it comes to historical practices and policies. To investigate the situation and possible courses of action, a working group was formed to report findings at a future LJP&B meeting.

Let’s rake!

The argument for the wrack removal is that some consider it unsightly, pungent and overly abundant. Further, there are surrounding San Diego beaches that are (reportedly) regularly wrack raked, and others that are not. La Jolla Shores has its wrack removed, but areas such as WindanSea and Children’s Pool do not.

“I like the idea of raking the beaches that people use ... the (wrack) leads to awful flies and the smell is terrible. If people are using the beaches, I think it should be picked up,” opined trustee Melinda Merryweather.

Let’s not rake!

Those opposed to the wrack removal, including LJP&B trustee Jane Reldan, cite the biological significance of the beach seaweed for area insects and birds. To state her point, Reldan read a “Beach Wrack Biological Significance” document posted at a Santa Barbara beach:

“Beaches change shape constantly because of changing swell and tide conditions. Plants cannot grow on the unstable surfaces of the intertidal beaches. The most important food source for animals of the upper beach comes from kelp forests offshore. Kelp washed onto the beach is called wrack. Many kinds of invertebrate animals eat wrack and provide an important food source for dozens of shore birds species that inhabit Santa Barbara beaches. Beach wrack is important to animals and plants that live on beaches.”

Rules & Regulations

Based on its biological significance, it is against California Coastal Commission regulations for volunteer groups to remove beach wrack. As such, the City will not permit organized groups to clear the wrack away.

In an e-mail to LJP&B members, City of San Diego Park & Recreation Department assistant director Andy Field said, “While we can help to organize volunteer beach cleanups through our volunteer office, we can only authorize removal of trash and litter, not naturally occurring protected features such as the kelp wrack. Throughout the year, I Love a Clean San Diego and other nonprofits conduct beach cleanups from time to time, and we can certainly facilitate a volunteer cleanup at WindanSea if desired.”

Dissatisfied, LJP&B member Ken Hunrichs said there is a disagreement between longtime La Jollans and the City in terms of whether the City has raked the wrack. “We run into a problem because places like Children’s Pool were historically cleaned, but the City has repeatedly claimed that it wasn’t,” he said at the meeting.

In an e-mail response to Fields’ comments, Hunrichs wrote, “I would like to see La Jolla Parks & Beaches work to reshape City and California Coastal Commission policies to allow for beach cleaning of all our recreational beaches. Leave the piles of rotting seaweed for the flies on the unused, inaccessible beaches.”

The working group could report as soon as the next meeting, 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

In other LJP&B news:

Challenged Athletes Triathlon: The 24th annual Challenged Athletes triathlon challenge, which brings together hundreds of challenged and able-bodied athletes for a 10-mile run, 44-mile bike ride and one-mile swim, got unanimous LJP&B support. The event will be Oct. 22 at Scripps Park.

Last year, the swim portion had to be moved to La Jolla Shores due to water quality concerns at The Cove. Representing the event, Kristine Entwistle said the fundraiser would like to return to The Cove — bacteria levels permitting. “We are watching water quality diligently,” she said. “Our plan is to have the swim at The Cove because it’s an important part of our event and makes it come together. The Cove makes the day what it needs to be.”

She said if bacteria levels at The Cove are above healthy standards, the organization would either cancel the swim part or move it to The Shores. Learn more at

New picnic tables: As part of the Whale View Point Shoreline Enhancement Project, new picnic tables/benches could be installed by mid-October. Project organizer Dynes reported, “The tables have been ordered, and the current ones are beyond ugly, so this is a minor victory for us. I didn’t get input as to what they are going to be (such as rebar and concrete, which is what the current, cracked benches are made of) or how much they cost, the City just put in the order and will have staff install them.”

Plans for the Whale View Point project would improve the safety and aesthetic of the third-mile stretch between 200 Coast Blvd. and the cobblestone wall known as the People’s Wall and Climbing Wall. The most recent achievement was the installation of an ADA-compliant and contiguous sidewalk along Coast Boulevard.

Princess Street: LJP&B also voted to support the Environmental Center of San Diego (ECSD) in its efforts to re-open beach access at Princess Street, which has been closed for more than 40 years. ECSD board member Pam Heatherington made a presentation at the June meeting, and returned for a vote of endorsement and a funding jumpstart.

Having met with the land surveyor who can assess the conditions for a beach-access route, Heartherington said, “Once we have the funds, we’re ready to schedule the survey and start the design.” She previously told the Light the design would be “something simple and in synch with nature,” and could include stairs, rails, ropes or other safety features. Once the survey is complete, the ECSD would decide on a firm to design the trail.

The survey costs between $1,000 and $2,000, so LJP&B voted to contribute $1,000 to the effort (which would be reimbursed by Friends of WindanSea, a supporter of the opening).

— LJP&B next meets 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.