Bodysurfers and other beach users gather at Boomer Beach to show support for preserving access
The event comes soon after the city of San Diego temporarily closes nearby Point La Jolla to keep people away from sea lions.
To demonstrate how Boomer Beach is used by bodysurfers and how beach access advocates and animal-rights groups could peacefully coexist during the temporary closure of nearby Point La Jolla, a small group of divers and others gathered Aug. 20 for an “ocean access celebration.”
The group convened at the open area south of the Point La Jolla closure at the trailhead leading to Boomer Beach and posted a table for a barbecue.
Point La Jolla, a rocky area between La Jolla Cove beach and Boomer Beach where sea lions often go on land to rest, is closed to public access until Wednesday, Sept. 15. It also is a sea lion birthing area where pupping season is recognized from June 1 to Oct. 31.
The San Diego Parks & Recreation Department orchestrated the closure Aug. 11 after months of reports of beach-goers bothering, and in a few cases harming, sea lions and their pups.
Signs, a barrier and a chained-off stairwell direct people away from the rocky bluff area.
“We want to preserve this access,” said Kurt Hoffman, organizer of the Aug. 20 event. “We want people to understand the value of the ocean and why having this access is so important. … We don’t hate the sea lions; we respect the people that want to look at the sea lions and we understand the issues the city is dealing with. We’re not going to try and get close to a sea lion. They do their thing, we do our thing. We just want to show how important it is to preserve the access to our ocean. This is a very well-established trail.”
Former lifeguard Marc Brown, who bodysurfs at Boomer Beach, said that although the city “left us what we needed” in terms of access to Boomer, he is worried that the restricted access to Point La Jolla may lead to additional closures.
“The locals want to have access to our beaches, but the tourists spend money, so the city wants to accommodate them,” he said. “We don’t need to close the beach off, and we’re worried they are going to close more beaches.”
Boomer Beach access in particular is important to bodysurfers because flotation devices are not allowed.
Though Boomer Beach is open, beach access advocate Ken Hunrichs said the city’s use of a plastic K-rail barrier nearby and a lack of signage directing people to the beach might give the impression that the beach is closed.
“If you didn’t know the boundaries of the closure and what was open and what was closed and you were walking down for the first time, you wouldn’t know this beach is open,” he said. “I don’t feel the need is there, but if they had to do something, I wish they would have just closed the point and leave the whole beach area alone … so people who use this beach don’t get so upset.”
Rather than limit human access, Hunrichs said, he would prefer the city move the sea lions to “a more wild place” such as the small beach area near the sea caves just on the other side of La Jolla Cove, within what is allowed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“That would mean a popular swimming beach wouldn’t have to be closed,” he said. “History shows the city opts for closing beaches. The Children’s Pool is closed five months of the year [in accord with the harbor seal pupping season]. I’m afraid this is the first step toward … more with closed or restricted beaches. The direction the city is going is way off base.”
City spokesman Tim Graham said at the time of the Point La Jolla closure that it “is intended to protect both the public and sea lions during pupping season. ... Sea lions, especially mothers who are nursing and feeding their young, can become aggressive and cause bodily injury when they feel threatened as a result of visitors that get too close.”
San Diego Council of Divers member Joel Tracey did not attend the Aug. 20 event but told the La Jolla Light that the area “is the most popular diving site for snorkelers, divers, bodysurfers and others that are in the water every day.”
“It’s sending the wrong message to [restrict access to] public beaches to allow for artificial imposition of a rookery,” Tracey said. “It never was one and shouldn’t become one.”
He expressed “disappointment” in the city for closing Point La Jolla, which he said is an accessway to Boomer Beach when the tide is high. He said it can be easier to access the water by jumping from Point La Jolla rather than swimming in.
Tracey also teaches a “Three R’s” course to instruct swimmers about rocks, reefs and rip currents and uses Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach because the area has all three under the surface.
“Closing the point … is poorly thought out,” he said. “I don’t trust that the current plan isn’t just a prelude to a larger plan. The most disappointing piece is that, once again, the city is making policy decisions that don’t make scientific sense.” ◆
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