New San Elijo lifeguard tower on the horizon, interim station to serve as placeholder

New San Elijo lifeguard tower on the horizon, interim station to serve as placeholder
Bluff erosion encroached on the site of a former lifeguard tower at the San Elijo Campgrounds, forcing officials to remove it in 2010. In the coming weeks a temporary lifeguard tower will be placed near the orange cones. Tentatively scheduled for 2015, a permanent tower will be constructed slightly east of the interim one. Photo by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — Concrete foundation is the only remnant of a San Elijo lifeguard tower that overlooked the Encinitas coastline for decades. 

But once again, lifeguards will soon be able to keep an eye on swimmers and beach goers from the spot.

Construction on a permanent tower has been delayed while the state parks department works to obtain design approval from the California Coastal Commission.

In the meantime, an interim tower will be up and running in the next month.

“We get a lot of questions about what happened to the old tower,” state Park Superintendent Robin Greene said.

“We are awaiting state fire marshal approval for our interim structure,” Greene added. “Once approved, a scaffolding system to support a standard fiberglass lifeguard tower will be placed on the bluff top.”

The original San Elijo lifeguard tower was built in the 1960s. Yet the slow, unceasing assault of erosion and especially powerful winter storms in 2010 left the tower dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. Lifeguard officials had little choice — they vacated and dismantled the tower.

The interim tower, set up on scaffolding that’s engineered to withstand wind and other elements, will be transported and placed about 10 yards to the east of where the original tower was located.

The design for the permanent tower is still being finalized. But Greene noted it will be 25 to 30 feet tall and set further back on the nearby hill.

Greene said that the spot affords a bird’s-eye view of Cardiff Reef, Swami’s Beach, the beach San Elijo Campgrounds beach and the close-by lagoon inlet, where lifeguards often rescue swimmers from fast-moving currents.

“The tower provides an efficiency in the operation,” Greene said. “I don’t have to have as many lifeguards patrolling the beaches. One person from that bluff top can see a lot.”

She added that the interim and permanent tower will be staffed most of the year.

To further take advantage of the uninterrupted sightlines, the permanent tower will feature 360-degree visibility.

It will also serve as lifeguard headquarters for beaches from Swami’s to north Cardiff.

Both the interim and permanent towers will have communication systems and supplies for day-to-day operations.

State parks is funding the interim tower at a price of $75,000.

Parks officials are still determining the final cost of the permanent structure and the materials that will be used to build it.

It’s expected that money for it will come from a mixture of sources, including grant funding.

The permanent tower could debut in 2015, though that’s a loose timeline because several agencies still have to sign off on the project.


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