CARLSBAD — Conflicting viewpoints regarding access to courts and fitness opportunities are heating up as the future over who operates those activities on state beaches comes into focus.
A request for proposal by the California State Parks and Recreation department, which was canceled on Jan. 21, is soliciting third-party concessions to run organized beach volleyball and other athletics at Ponto, Tamarack and Warm Water (jetty) and Frazee state beaches.
Currently, the concession, which is on a month-to-month basis, is held by the Carlsbad Village Athletic Clubs (CVAC) for Tamarack, Warm Water and Frazee. The concession allows the club to charge for access, although Dennis Shaw, the owner of CVAC, said other clubs obtain special permits to ensure their time on the beach.
Tom Geldner, who helped start the informal North Coast Beach Volleyball (NCVB) group, said a “scathing” 2018 audit revealed numerous problems with CVAC’s practices. The audit found CVAC in violation of numerous terms of the contract, including financial reporting, and the auditors recommended agreement be terminated and the state assumes control.
Shay, though, said the club was acting in good faith and admitted while it made mistakes, they were not malicious in any way. Additionally, he said the club has committed itself to better practices and has never attempted to shut down public access.
One of the main points of contention of access is at South Ponto Beach, both said. Geldner said there have been times where the open court was denied to non-members of CVAC or other clubs paying to use the courts or fitness areas.
Shay refutes those claims, but did say over the duration of the contract, he has had to ask people to leave when the time rightfully belonged to others who paid. Regardless, he said his efforts have been in line with the state and is committed to continuing free play and access.
“We addressed the items in the audit,” Shay. “We showed them what we had. We started from ground zero, in a manual process. It worked for us and it worked for the people attending. I know we are doing the right thing.”
In 2012, the state and CVAC entered into a concessions agreement for two years, but since 2014, the agreement has been on a month-to-month basis. According to the CVAC’s website, rental rates for one hour on one court is $25, while the club also offers a walk-on rate of $10 per day. Players are allowed to play Saturday and Sunday mornings and a “weekday sunset game” during summer hours.
Additionally, many of the volleyball poles paid for by NCBV were seized by the state and given to the CVAC without compensation to NCBV, Geldner added.
Several supporters of CVAC said the club has acted in good faith, followed the concession and provided numerous opportunities for groups or schools to play on the beach.
Andrew Bennett, who owns the Tamarack Beach Volleyball Club, said his club pays a nominal fee and his athletes, and those from high schools and local colleges, also use the courts. He also disputes the claims people will be charged for playing pick-up games, noting the state or CVAC don’t have the resources to be at all locations at once.
“A lot of it is false news,” Bennett said. “It’s basically a group of people saying what if the sky falls. In my perspective, if you are organized group making money on a state beach, you should probably have to pay money for a permit and follow compliance rules.”
John Prieto, a Carlsbad resident and vocal critic of the concession, said it would be best for the city to take the concession.