CARLSBAD— As the only Carlsbad lagoon where recreational activities are allowed, Agua Hedionda Lagoon has become a local destination for jet skiing, paddle boarding, dog walking, and a host of other activities.
But city officials and residents are saying that the beach-like spot has become too popular and misuse is suspected to be causing damaging impacts on the natural lagoon.
“The word is out, it’s not the local secret that it used to be,” said Carlsbad Parks and Recreation Director Chris Hazeltine at the June 10 City Council meeting. “There’s a lot of issues (at Agua Hedionda) that we’ve identified.”
The city currently leases use of the lagoon to NRG Energy, which operates a power plant on the far west side of the lagoon.
Carlsbad also has an agreement with California Watersports, allowing for rentals of waterskiing, kayaking, and other water sports on the lagoon.
Yet numerous other private businesses have been operating at the lagoon on and off, including those that offer paddleboard instruction and paddleboard yoga. A local church also offers baptisms in Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
City staff is concerned that these businesses do not have permits from the city and do not carry licenses and insurance. The city is held liable for activities held at the lagoon.
“There are other businesses out there on the lagoon that we do not have any agreements with,” said city special projects manager Mick Calarco.
Staff, city police, and residents living near the lagoon claim to regularly witness visitors swimming in the lagoon, letting their dogs run around off leash, and parking illegally within the neighborhood, all of which violate city codes for the lagoon.
Owner of California Watersports Josh Kenner told City Council that rather than being worried about unpermitted businesses encroaching on his customers, he was more concerned about the safety issues caused by the unlicensed operations.
He said that unless police are present on the lagoon, there is no way he can prevent unsafe practices by individuals who rent water sports equipment or host lessons on the lagoon.
City staff requested permission from City Council to further investigate the problems at the lagoon into the peak summer season and consider ways to address the issues.
Lisa Rodman, executive of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, said that although the nonprofit does not have any specific complaints about the current usage of the lagoon, it is important to engage stakeholders in the development of new regulations.
City Council supported staff dedicating more time to studying the problems at the lagoon.
Councilmember Keith Blackburn specifically advocated for better resources for law enforcement to address misuses and violations at the lagoon.
Hazeltine said that city staff would be able to come back to city council with a report and recommended actions by early next year.