Carlsbad launches lifeguard program on stretch of beach

CARLSBAD — This summer, the previously unmanned stretch of beach from Oak Street up to the Oceanside border will be dedicated to a pilot program for lifeguards.

The program, which is being managed by the Carlsbad Fire Department, will include lifeguards at three locations along the ¾-mile beach. It will also include vehicle patrols, access to watercraft, new signage and more.

City staff presented the program to the City Council on April 11.

The $300,000 proposal includes two full-time fire department personnel, four part-time lifeguards and extra police patrols as needed. No lifeguard towers will be erected, as those require permits. Instead, lifeguards will observe the water from vehicles or tall lifeguard chairs.

The program is as much for information gathering as public safety. “We built this pilot program based on what we know today,” Fire Chief Mike Davis said. “One of the goals of the pilot program is to gather data on beach usage and conditions so we can return with a recommendation for the long-term need after summer.”

Unlike the rest of Carlsbad’s shoreline, the stretch of sand from Oak Street to Oceanside is not actually part of the California State Parks System. Whereas state-employed lifeguards patrol the beaches from Pine Avenue South to Terramar and from the state campground to the southern city limit, the pilot program territory is privately owned.

Property owners who reside along that stretch own the beach out to the mean high tide line.

The city of Carlsbad maintains public easements on this property, which allow people to utilize the beach and the city to provide services.

The pilot lifeguard program will run from Memorial Day through Labor Day, at which time the information gathered will be considered in establishing a permanent program for the future.

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