Ranger has his hands full with Children’s Pool


By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Interim Children’s Pool ranger Randy Hawley has been busy since mid-July keeping the peace between pro-seal and pro-beach access proponents and educating the public at the shared-use beach.

“I’m what’s called a provisional employee,” said the affable Hawley, stopping to chat poolside during a recent Saturday afternoon shift, interrupting at one point to ask, “Would you mind backing up so seals can come up on the beach?”

A retired public employee asked to come out of retirement for a special assignment, Hawley said his mission, working less than a full-time schedule, is to get the city-sponsored pool ranger and seal docent programs up and running for the full-time ranger who will replace him.

Hawley has been charged with three primary tasks: communicating with and educating the public; reviewing, interpreting and developing signage going up at the beach; and taking the lead on developing a seal docent program training volunteers.

“City docents will be volunteers who report to a city employee,” said Hawley. “Basically, they’ll be like non-paid employees for the city, which means they can’t advocate for one side or the other, they have to reflect the city’s policies not their own viewpoints.”

City Park and Recreation Director Stacey LoMedico said the process to select Hawley’s successor would soon be under way.

“We anticipate interviews will be done the first week of October and we would like to have a permanent ranger hired by November — that’s my goal,” she said.

Hawley said he’s at Children’s Pool on weekends but added his hours vary.

“The needs are to observe things at different times of the day,” he said, adding on this Saturday (Sept. 18) he did some office work before coming down to the pool at 3:45 p.m. “I’ll be here until after sunset.”

Hawley’s role is clearly defined.

“I don’t engage people on the beach unless I have a reason to interrupt their behavior,” he said. “When the tide and the seals start coming in, I just go up to people and say, ‘Would you like to see the seals?’ Then I say, ‘To improve your chances of seeing the seals, you need to move back a little bit.’ I’m not asking anybody to leave the beach: I’m not disrupting their activity.”

Parks director LoMedico said a permitting process for a year-round rope barrier at Children’s Pool is in the works. But she added that an appeal of a recent hearing officer’s decision in favor of the rope is likely to be filed with the city Planning Commission and it could be appealed beyond that to the California Coastal Commission. That makes it unlikely the rope will go up sooner than Dec. 15 when it is scheduled to be up until May 15 for the seals’ pupping season.

Concerning the ongoing controversy over the appropriateness of commercial interests operating tables at Children’s Pool which sell T-shirts and other items and pass out educational literature about the pool and seals, LoMedico said, “We have received complaints about the large number of individuals who are providing literature to the public and we are working with the city attorney’s office to address that.”

Regarding new signage being developed for Children’s Pool, LoMedico said, “We have been coordinating with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to place two city signs and two NOAA signs up at the pool within the next three weeks.