CARLSBAD — Beach ownership is a bit of a “hodge podge” said Councilman Michael Schumacher at a City Council meeting Tuesday and the city hopes to work with the state to improve beach amenities.
“Not too many people realize the city doesn’t own the beach,” he said.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation owns five miles of beaches in Carlsbad.
The council unanimously approved directing city staff to enter into negotiations with the state parks department to pursue a long-term maintenance agreement for the five-mile stretch (excluding the South Carlsbad State Beach campground).
Carlsbad Parks and Recreation Director Chris Hazeltine told the council that no commitments are being made.
Council just approved staff to begin discussions with the state.
The move towards a maintenance agreement comes after what Hazeltine called a hugely successful yearlong partnership between the city and the state to refurbish beach amenities between Pine and Tamarack avenues.
The partnership came about because, Hazeltine said, the state doesn’t have the resources to upkeep the beach.
“State parks quite frankly just don’t have the ability to provide basic maintenance services and that’s been reflected in maintenance practices over the past couple of years,” Hazeltine said.
In January, the Tamarack restrooms re-opened after the city spent more than $90,000 to refurbish them.
Two outdoor showers and a drinking fountain were added.
The coastal bluffs were also replanted to remove non-native species and to help reduce erosion.
All of the improvements cost the city a total of about $1 million.
The councilmembers unanimously agreed that the partnership is beneficial to the city and the coastline.
Mayor Pro Tem Keith Blackburn said a disproportionate amount of people have come up to him and told him how great the beach improvements have been.
“Truly a disproportionate number of people are talking to me about how great the work is down there and how much they appreciate it,” Blackburn said. “This is going to be one of the top projects we have in our community.”
Public Works Superintendent Kyle Lancaster told the council about Encinitas’ successful partnership with the state, which started in 1989, and focuses on Moonlight Beach.
Lancaster talked about the possibility of the city installing fire rings, increasing lifeguard hours, and running mobile concessions and recreation activities like Junior Lifeguards.
Hazeltine said that since the state is stretched so thin, lifeguards’ hours have been cut and aren’t patrolling the beach as often as they used to.
“When they’re there, they do a great job but their peak season has shrunk over the years,” Hazeltine said.
If the city is able to enhance services through a partnership, there would be more lifeguards on duty.
“A good example is just last weekend when we had the big surf and high temperatures, there wasn’t the presence there that you would expect in a peak season type day,” Hazeltine said.
Councilman Mark Packard supported the vote to enter into negotiations but cautioned against over-spending.
“As all quality of life issues, there is a cost that is associated with those things that we need to be careful of,” Packard said.
The negotiations for Carlsbad to take over maintenance and operations could take up to a year, according to Hazeltine.