SUMMER DAZE IN LA JOLLA – Upon reviewing my photos and journal entries I made in August to create this page, I realized that although August means vacation getaways to people & spending time enjoying La Jolla, it means something completely different for the residents and wild life that live here. Shore birds, marine mammals and tide pool life all are encroached upon by too many people.
Since I was thinking about this and have been seeing the way San Diego beaches are changing, I decided to do some research. San Diego has a population of 1.37 million people, is the 8th largest city in the U.S. and the 2nd largest city in California. San Diego is also a top U.S. travel destination and statistics show that 34 million visitors come here each year and spend $16 Billion dollars! No wonder the basis of our economy in San Diego is tourism. So this means that during the peak times of visitors coming to San Diego, our population swells here to a number of people that is simply beyond my comprehension.
So what is August like in La Jolla during the peak visitor season? The La Jolla Cove is crowded with people walking down onto the bluffs, walking on the tiny Cove beach and there are crowds of snorkelers, divers and swimmers in the water there, too. From La Jolla Shores hundreds of kayaks arrive each hour to get an up close look at the La Jolla caves and sea lions who are trying to find a place to rest in every nook and cranny they can find. After swimming long distances to feed themselves, the sea lions have a difficult time getting rest because no matter how many signs are posted people want to “pet” these wild marine mammals even at the risk of getting bitten. Every few moments the sea lions are touched, pushed and people even lay down on the sand right next to them never realizing that they have put themselves in harm’s way.
Over at Casa Beach, the Harbor seals are not able to haul out because the beach there is wall-to-wall people setting up umbrellas, building sand castles and swimming in the water in spite of signs posted saying that the bacteria count in this water may cause illness. The rope with signage requesting people to stay back and give the Harbor seals the beach is completely ignored.
The bluffs where the pelicans and cormorants rest are invaded by people wanting to stand at the edge of the bluff to take photos or to climb down the bluffs to have an adventure to remember. People climb these bluffs in spite of signage stating “Unstable cliffs, stay back!” A few people die here each year falling off of these crumbling sandstone bluffs.
So what is the answer? Obviously less people, but of course that isn’t possible. I realize that people come here because La Jolla is a beautiful coastal community. The visitors are excited to see the seals, sea lions and shore birds. They rush by the few signs warning that the sea lions are wild and bite. They rush by the unsafe water signs without even reading it. The City of San Diego has an obligation to not impede the money that visitors bring into the area so they are reluctant to provide enforcement of the state and federal laws, which protect the wild life. It is illegal to disturb nesting birds, yet someone removed a lot of cormorant nests so that the bird guano odor would not disturb the diners in the ocean view restaurant across the street.
There is a movement here by businesses to drive away the sea lions, harbor seals and pelicans because the odor of wild life deters people from eating at their too-close-to-the-beach hotels, restaurants and condos. There is a short sightedness that restaurants and hotels will always be here, but the wild life may not. There is no sense of preserving the beauty of La Jolla for posterity. There is no movement to turn this special coastal environment into a federal park where there could be management of the huge numbers of people and enforcement of the laws protecting this wild life.
During the 45 years I have lived in San Diego, I have seen the hermit crabs completely wiped out from the tide pools by visitors illegally taking them home. Just about every single shell has disappeared from all beaches, which used to have millions of shells rolling in and out with the tides. Realizing that 34 million people visit here each year means that if even half of them took a handful of shells home, this is why there are no more shells left. With the internet, there are no more secret shell collecting beaches. The hotel gift shops sell shell collecting toys and nets for children to go into the protected tide pools to scavenge shells. What does this mean? It means that unless San Diego is committed to preserving our coastal environment, these children will be the last children to every see sea shells on the beach and cormorants raising their chicks on the bluffs.
What else it means is that I only go to the beach in August before 8 a.m. in the morning or after 7 p.m. at night. It means that like the wild life, I am trying to survive, to outlast the August invasion. And that when the Summer Daze of August comes to an end, the kids return to school and the visitors all go back to their homes San Diego will take a deep breath, pick up the trash left behind and watch and hope that the wild life returns.