Parks & Beaches board supports new Bottom Scratchers plaque in La Jolla

A mock-up depicts what a plaque in La Jolla honoring the Bottom Scratchers might look like.
A mock-up depicts what a plaque in La Jolla honoring the Bottom Scratchers might look like, pending local and San Diego approval. The wording was modified since this presentation was made.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The plaque, which would be placed above Boomer Beach, will honor a San Diego club considered one of the nation’s earliest free-diving associations.


The La Jolla Parks & Beaches board formally gave its support to the wording, location and setting of a plaque in La Jolla honoring a diving organization known as the Bottom Scratchers.

The Bottom Scratchers, considered one of the earliest free-diving associations in the United States, formed in San Diego in the 1930s with a focus on catching local seafood to feed members’ families. The participants didn’t use snorkels or fins but instead held their breath while diving deep into the ocean, often off La Jolla.

The Parks & Beaches board voted at its Aug. 28 meeting to support the plaque’s proposed wording and where and how it would be placed.

The board had voted a month earlier to support the plan in concept and form a working group to discuss specifics and make a final recommendation at a future meeting.

The proposal now will proceed to the San Diego City Council’s Environment Committee for further review.

The plaque would be on the ocean side of the seawall of Scripps Park, above Boomer Beach. It would be at the boundary line of a proposed year-round closure of Point La Jolla.

“That way, when you are looking at it, you see the transit path down to Boomer Beach … and the tourists that come here can see something historical happened here,” said Volker Hoehne, a member of the San Diego Freedivers, which is shepherding the project.

Hoehne said the plaque would be placed on a boulder that the San Diego Parks & Recreation Department would provide. “We’re going to ask for a round granite boulder,” he said, though the specifics will be up to the city.

LJP&B members Patrick Ahern and John Shannon voted against the proposal, citing a need to refine the project further and a concern that the placement could pose an issue with beach access.

The plaque would be donated by San Diego Freedivers, and installation would be handled by the Parks & Recreation Department.

The wording was slightly modified since the July meeting to read: “Offshore from this beach access, the sea floor bears memorial markers to name and honor San Diego’s most heralded underwater pioneers — the San Diego Bottom Scratchers Dive Club. The Bottom Scratchers dedicated every dive to preventing the waste of sea life and to helping others appreciate the wonders of the sea. All who enter here fall under oath to do the same.”

The group had only 19 members, all of whom are deceased.

Bottom Scratchers members are credited with inventing or improving on diving and spearfishing technology, initiating creation of the La Jolla ecological reserve, pioneering underwater photography and forming the first San Diego Port District dive team. They also helped scientists conduct research dives.

However, the only commemoration of the group are rocks known as “tombstones” at the bottom of the sea off Point La Jolla. When a Bottom Scratchers member would die, another member or a friend would carve the person’s name into a rock and free-dive to place the stone on the sea floor. Volunteers now occasionally dive to clean the stones.

Other LJP&B news

A bluff and storm drain will be repaired in coming months along Neptune Place in the Windansea Beach area.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Storm drain repair: Emily Lynch, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said a fact sheet is being created about the repair to a storm drain on Neptune Place in the Windansea Beach area. She said it would contain project details and a timeline and be sent to the LJP&B board in coming weeks.

According to a city notice issued May 16, the repair project requires an emergency coastal development permit to replace two stormwater inlets, 39 feet of 18-inch storm drain pipe, 30 feet of curb and gutter and 15 feet of wooden bluff fence, put in a new 20-foot-long, 6-foot-tall concrete retaining wall, backfill bluff and slope erosion and fix the sidewalk.

Work is expected to begin after the summer coastal construction moratorium, which ends after Labor Day.

Picnic grove: A working group trying to establish a second picnic grove in Scripps Park is looking to raise $5,000 to fund a topographical survey and landscape development plan to get the project moving.

Thus far, $1,000 has been donated toward the total cost of $6,000. Contributions can be sent to La Jolla Parks & Beaches, P.O. Box 185, La Jolla, CA 92038.

The survey, which would outline what will be included in the project, is required as part of a right-of-entry permit to do the work.

The first picnic grove was unveiled in December. That project, which took more than a year and a half, involved relocating tables, improving access for people with disabilities, replacing a dying tree and layering the ground cover with a paving material called GraniteCrete.

The proposed site of the second picnic grove is north of the first one and currently has a table.

Bike path damage: La Jolla resident and community volunteer Debbie Adams said the La Jolla Bike Path “took a hit” during Tropical Storm Hilary on Aug. 20 and that she is working with the nonprofit I Love A Clean San Diego to restore it.

A volunteer cleanup is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 23.

During the storm, one tree and 10 large branches fell, tall agave stalks snapped in half and dry brush was dislodged.

The bike path sits primarily between Nautilus Street and Mira Monte and is used by cyclists and pedestrians. Immediately east of the path are steep, sensitive slopes that contain native vegetation.

Next meeting: La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets a week earlier than usual because of the Yom Kippur holiday. The meeting will be at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Learn more at ◆