Seals spark more conversation

Seal proponents touted the uniqueness of seals as a natural resource while ocean-access advocates insisted it’s long past time to clean up the Children’s Pool at a meeting hosted by 1st District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner last week.

The give-and-take came during a “conversation” over summer management of the beach.

Lightner is hosting a second meeting at 6 tonight dealing with the prospect of turning Children’s Pool into a marine sanctuary. The meeting will be held in La Jolla High’s Parker Auditorium.

At last week’s meeting, Lightner told the audience: “I didn’t support the (city’s) seal dispersal plan, and I do not have a seal dispersal plan, which is why I would like to revisit this topic. Maybe we can figure out some solutions while we’re waiting for the courts and legislature to figure out what to do.”

By July 20, the city must return to court with revisions of its seal dispersal plan, and on Monday, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee approved on an 8-0 vote a bill that could ultimately turn Children’s Pool into a marine mammal park.

Getting ideas

Lightner said her primary goal in holding the meetings was to ensure the public has input into what happens at Children’s Pool.

“The city must be prepared for future management of Children’s Pool and what ramifications that may have for adjacent beaches and the public,” she said.

As a prelude to public comment, Lightner implored the 35 or so people who turned out for the public forum to be respectful of others’ opinions over the emotionally charged issue of seals.

Seal advocate James Hudnall said the Children’s Pool is the only harbor seal rookery along the Southern California coastline and that seals’ presence there can be historically documented. He added that the city and the community are underestimating its value as an unparalleled natural resource.

‘Like the Galapagos’

“We have a world-class wildlife situation similar to that on the Galapagos Islands,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to protect seals from harassment. I’m suggesting the city and county fully enforce health requirements by testing at the pool, which shows high seal fecal coliform (bacteria).”

Melinda Merryweather differed with the seal advocates.

“This is a man-made pool, not a natural environment,” she noted. “The pool was made for the purpose of teaching children all over San Diego to swim safely in the ocean. As far as what to do for summer, I think we should open the sluiceways (in the crescent wall) for the purpose of cleaning the sand.”

‘No more megaphones’

Merryweather also called for ending the practice of seal proponents using megaphones to warn the public away from seals.

“It is your constitutional right in California to go to the beach, and no one should be telling them they can’t,” she said.

After the meeting, attorney Richard Wildman, president of Promote La Jolla, the community’s merchant district, said he felt people respected the councilwoman’s call for civility.

“It was nice to see people intelligently discuss the subject and not get too emotional,” he said. “I’m glad people are talking about it instead of yelling.”