By John Lomac
San Diego residentAt a recent La Jolla Community Planning Association (“LJCPA”) meeting to discuss a City of San Diego proposal to close the Children’s Pool beach during seal pupping season there were several statements made by community members in opposition.
I offer these rebuttals based upon first-hand experiences as a former city Lifeguard II in the La Jolla area. While I spent most of my lifeguard hours at the Shores, Scripps and Black’s beaches, I spent many weekends at the Cove and Children’s Pool. During the winter months I was stationed at La Jolla Shores and was one of the backup lifeguards that assist the lifeguard at the Cove or Children’s Pool when assistance was needed.
During the hours I worked at the Cove and Children’s Pool I also rescued many swimmers and divers.
With respect to the comments made at the LJCPA meeting by divers present, it is simply not true that there are no other safe places to dive in the area. The Cove is recognized as a diver’s paradise with safe entry to the marine reserve. The boat launch area at the south end of La Jolla Shores is one of the safest points of entry for divers, particularly for learners. With any kind of ocean swell the diving conditions at the Children’s Pool always made for dangerous diving conditions. I rescued too many divers of all experience levels to believe that public access should be preserved for scuba divers because the Children’s Pool is a safe diving beach. Such is simply not so.
A statement was made at the meeting by a father “who wanted to be able to take his daughter to a safe beach nearby.” Based upon my experience working at the Children’s Pool during winter months, I would never categorize the Children’s Pool as being a safe place for children. Unless local ocean conditions are completely calm, there is always an outgoing surge off the end of the sea wall caused by the existing deep channel. If anything, parents need to be extra vigilant watching their children at the Children’s Pool, no matter what depth of water. Rock- and reef-associated beaches should never be considered to be safe havens for bathing, most particularly for children and toddlers.
The safest bathing beach is La Jolla Shores, particularly from the lifeguard tower going south to the boat launch area. The beach is staffed yearround with lifeguards who focus their attention upon watching bathers and swimmers, not, as at the Cove and the Children’s Pool are required to do, keeping a mindful, binocular-eye on divers outside of the posted swimming area.
Lastly, there was an absolutely incorrect statement made by one of the LJCPA trustees that “there was no problem at all with seals and people interacting with each other.”
Mother seals, given any provocation, can be ferocious in their protection of their young. Taking pictures and approaching seals at close distance, particularly with an accompanied child, is simply foolish. No reasonable person should ever think that a parent seal would not do what is natural based upon a perceived threat.