Surf’s up — but not lifeguard squad — at Imperial Beach

June 21, 2001 No Comments

The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jun 21, 2001. pg. B.17

Imperial Beach is a much nicer place to visit than it used to be. Beach closures due to polluted waters are way down. The city is sprucing up beachfront areas. Alcohol is banned in the beach area so the street drunks are gone. The pier area was renovated. And just recently, 120,000 cubic yards of soft sand was laid along the city’s south beaches.

It’s all good — except one thing. While the number of beach- goers expands, the lifeguard service is staying the same. In a story yesterday, Union-Tribune Staff Writer Janine Zuniga detailed a request by the city of Imperial Beach for an additional $926,052 from the Port District over the next three years to expand and equip Imperial Beach’s lifeguard service. About 10 years ago, with the city in dire financial condition, the Port District took control of the beach area and now funds lifeguard service and beach-area maintenance and renovations. The lifeguards are city employees, however.

The number of beach-goers in Imperial Beach jumped to nearly 2.3 million last year from about 1.75 million for several years before that. This year, the city expects even more people, drawn by the new sandy beach and the fact that beach closures from pollution have dropped from 161 days in 1998 to 39 days last year. Plus, the reputation of Imperial Beach has gotten much better in recent years. More people are discovering Imperial Beach.

Currently, the IB lifeguard service has only two permanent employees and 27 seasonal lifeguards. A study by the Port District itself recommends the service hire another two full-time and three part-time lifeguards and additional equipment and training. The additional Port funding would allow lifeguards to double the area they patrol, from a half-mile to one mile of beach. The additional area in the south is where the new sand was laid, so it will certainly attract more people than in the past. Imperial Beach officials said they would put a new portable tower on the south beach, if the Port agrees to the additional funding.

New funding for Imperial Beach lifeguard service would be an important investment for the Port District. A lot of money has been spent upgrading Imperial Beach. The sand replenishment will create a new attraction for beach-goers. Yet, the area with the new sand has no lifeguard patrols. The Port District must increase funding to keep up with the growing popularity of Imperial Beach. Otherwise, beach-goers may be in danger because the lifeguard service is spread too thin.

Port Commissioners should quickly approve the new funding request from the city of Imperial Beach. If the Port District can pay developer Doug Manchester $5 million to not build a hotel, it can certainly afford to pay Imperial Beach $926,052 to help save lives.
[Illustration]
1 PIC; Caption: Joey Butticci stands watch at Imperial Beach.; Credit: Nelvin Cepeda / Union-Tribune

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