ENCINITAS — Last week, the old tower came down. By next year, a new one will have risen up in its place.
The old lifeguard tower on Moonlight Beach was, according to one Encinitas lifeguard, as iconic as the palm tree that’s been towering over beachgoers there for several years.
Paul Giuliano, a lifeguard serving since 1991 and who remains a seasonal lifeguard, gave a eulogy of sorts on Wednesday afternoon to the old tower where he’s spent many a summer keeping a watchful eye over swimmers.
“For all of the challenges, that old lifeguard that used to stand right here served us well over the decades. It was freezing cold in winter and blazing hot in summer, but it was our home,” Giuliano said.
Last week, the old tower was torn down to make way for the new Moonlight Beach Marine Safety Center. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held on Wednesday to signify the start of the project. The new safety center is scheduled to be completed by early summer next year.
“For many of us it was a difficult day last week when that old tower came down,” Giuliano added.
He welcomed the new building, saying that it will become the home for some “amazing young men and women who’ve committed themselves to serving the public and watching together, over everyone who visits this amazing, old beach.”
At the ceremony, Mayor Kristin Gaspar said the new safety marine center construction was 50 years overdue.
She cited that 3.5 million people use Moonlight Beach over the course of a year.
“And so it’s really important that we have a good marine safety center to accommodate all of the visitors to our beaches,” she said.
According to Capt. Larry Giles, the new safety marine center will include three major components: the observation deck, a direct connection to 911 communications to provide increased response times and a dedicated space for the Sheriff’s department to be able to provide law enforcement up and down the coast line.
Lt. Paul Chapman has spent the past 11 years with the Encinitas Lifeguards. He said they knew the old station was beyond its point of usefulness.
“We knew we needed something better, but we were still proud to work out of it. We never showed up to work and insulted the station we worked at,” Chapman said. “We were happy to be there, and we’d still be doing it with that tower if it was still out there.”
Chapman said that the new tower will allow the lifeguards to provide a better level of service.
He expressed thanks to the city for authorizing the new safety center, adding that the benefactors would be the people that come to enjoy the beach.
“We’re proud to be able to continue doing our jobs with better tools,” Chapman said.
He watched with some emotion as the old tower came down, reflecting on the many memories forged there.
“If those walls could talk,” he said. “There’s so much history. Even if you work one summer, you’re going to see life-changing rescues, and it’s emotional. It’s bittersweet.”
The new safety center will also feature an 8-foot by 15-foot seamless glass mosaic on the northwest facing well donated by the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project.
“It’s going to be a magnificent piece,” said Bob Nichols, president of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project.
The mosaic will depict a local marine habitat created by several artists, including Mark Patterson, the creator of the Surfing Madonna mosaic. Nichols said the mosaic would be an educational piece.
“It will be a piece that people will see for years and years to come, we hope. And people will see this piece and they’ll go, ‘My God, that’s the beauty out there underneath our ocean,’” said Nichols.