ENCINITAS — Only weeks before summer camps are scheduled to begin, the city’s parks and recreation programs are at a complete standstill awaiting direction from San Diego County.
City officials in charge of educational and recreational programming continue to wait for guidance from the county, unable to make decisions with regard to scheduling, location and COVID-19 related adjustments until county health officials address the issue.
Until the county does so, all programming is paused and registration on hold, affecting not only staff but also local families counting on summer programming as a reliable form of child care.
The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department is working to accommodate all programs for any possible coronavirus restrictions levied by the county.
Recreation Services Manager Travis Karlen laid out a series of possible precautions to keep residents safe, including increased sanitization, thermometer usage and social distancing measures, keeping participants 6 feet apart.
“We’re working through the challenges so we can potentially hold camps if the county amends the health order,” Karlen said. “Currently, we’re also offering online classes for youth and adults, as well as our Virtual Recreation page.”
Marine Safety Captain Larry Giles is also facing challenges related to COVID-19 on the city’s shorelines.
Giles estimates that between Memorial and Labor Day weekends, Encinitas beaches see around 10,000 students, including those in city and surf camps, as well as other beach programs. The Encinitas Junior Lifeguard program hosts an average of 1,400 students alone.
All such programming exists at the beaches, where available space is not only determined by the tide but the numbers of public beachgoers.
In regards to canceling beach programming, Giles said, “We need to be patient before we postpone all these sessions for the next two to three months. It’s a fluid situation. If we don’t see a recommended list of conditions and access to public pools from the county, we’ll likely postpone the first two sessions in June and then re-evaluate for July.”
“These programs are important,” Giles said. “Our Junior Lifeguarding Program is essentially our drowning prevention program. It’s geared to making a person more situationally aware and safer in the ocean.
“Our classes are very interactive and hands-on. When my lifeguards are instructing Junior kids, they’re pulling them out of rip currents and from getting held down by the surf. We’re very high contact with these kids and we want to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Giles and Karlen both anticipate the county will recommend a list of health conditions and adjustments; but neither was certain about the timeframe, suggesting an answer could come as soon as this week or as late as July.
Once the county has amended the health order, previously registered residents will be contacted and all information and approved policies will be found online on the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts webpage.
Caitlin Steinberg is a Leucadia resident who is covering all things Encinitas for The Coast News.
She is also a fine art photographer, as well as a military historian and CEO of Operation Green Faces, a 501(c)3 nonprofit preserving the oral histories of UDT & SEAL Team operators in the Vietnam War.