A View from My Recession: No Lifeguard on Duty

Huntington Beach Lifeguard Tower Number 24

Photo taken by Ms. Jen on 08.28.10 with her Nokia N86.

Sat 08.28.10 – Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish has over the course of the last two years an ongoing series of posts called “The View from Your Recession“, where readers write in about how ‘The Economy’ is affecting their lives either directly or indirectly.
Even before the economic downturn in late 2008, California has had budget woes, particularly in the summer when the legislature has been chronically unable to pass a budget before July 1st. The last 4-5 years has featured July and August as a monumental struggle between the legislature and Arnold, of which Arnold has turned off the budgetary taps to get the legislature to talk to each other and resolve their issues. The result has been steep budget cuts year round and a frozen budget in the summer months.
Last summer Bolsa Chica State Beach tried to save money by turning off fresh water in the park, thus no showers, no drinking fountains, etc. The local surfers revolted, as they all pay $125 a year for a parking pass which supposedly supports the state beach, and went to the State Beach commissioner’s house and threatened to turn off his water all while they demanded their parking money back. Water got turned back on the next day and has remained on since. It does help that Bolsa Chica State Beach has the greatest revenue and attendance of any state beach or park in California, so the commissioner can make an argument to Sacramento that the surfers are paying for their post-ocean showers with their parking pass fees.
[Disclosure, I have a State Beach parking pass and use the shower to wash my feet off and give the dogs a drink post-dog beach.]
Most years at Southern California beaches the lifeguard towers are only open for business during the summer when the kids are out of school and the tourists are out in force, during the school year most of the lifeguard towers are closed up and the only the ones at nearest the main piers are open. Most of the SoCal beach communities do have full time rescue and lifeguard staff that is augmented by trained young lifeguards in the summer time who staff the towers.
The past few years Huntington Beach has all the towers staffed with lifeguards during the summer months from the HB Pier to the Santa Ana River to the south and to Bolsa Chica State Beach to the north, as well as roving lifeguards on red four wheel all terrain vehicles & red trucks patrolling between towers that are spaced at a greater distance, like towers 28-24 at Dog Beach on the north side of town.
Early this summer, I noticed that the 3 lifeguard towers at Dog Beach had fencing placed around them with signs saying “No Lifeguards This Area”, and as the summer progressed the towers were not opened at all not even on the busy weekends like the Fourth of July. Even more surprising is that I have not seen the roving lifeguards in trucks or all terrain vehicles patrolling the areas with no staffed lifeguard towers.
The most active surf, the most amount of rocks, and riptides in North Orange County are right in front of Tower 24 and Tower 26 at the Huntington Cliffs. This is a highly trafficked area with surfers clambering down unofficial paths of the Cliffs to get to the surf, dog owners trying to get themselves and their dogs to the beach, as well as random Angelenos and tourists wanting to experience the beach.
Either the City of Huntington Beach consulted with their lawyers and determined that big signs warning folks of no lifeguards and that folks were taking responsibility for their own lives by swimming was sufficient to repel any lawsuits in the event of child whisked out to sea by riptides or the budget cuts plus decreased tax revenue due to ‘The Economy’ really has taken a toll on the Huntington Beach lifeguard and rescue budget.
Anyone know what the real story is on the lack of lifeguards at the towers?