2006 (total): 103 days,
2007 (to date): 193 days, 314.75
month marks the first anniversary of UPSAC's
efforts to bring some order to the chaos that was Goleta Pier last year
at this time.
Time to take stock ... what were the issues last August and how
much progress has been made towards resolving them?
The number one issue was the deteriorating condition of
the pier railings, benches and other structures due to the deferred maintenance
dictated by an inadequate budget at the County level.
Following some adverse publicity the County removed the accumulated
graffiti and repaired the damaged benches and railings. But it was clear
that the pier was going to require ongoing attention on a daily basis in
order to keep it from reverting to its former state.
Realizing that the County was not in a position to provide that
level of service UPSAC began a volunteer cleanup effort resulting in 450
hours of donated labor spread over 280 days.
I think it can be said that the effort
was a success as it is generally agreed that the pier is in better condition
now than it has been in some time. In the process it was learned that it
requires about two hours of daily attention to keep it that way.
major issue at Goleta was the problem of birds being caught by anglers
or entangled in improperly discarded fishing line. UPSAC focused on two
a. All discarded line was removed daily and receptacles to encourage
recycling were installed on the pier.
b. Daily scrubbing removed leftover cut bait from railings and
benches and anglers were encouraged to keep their baits covered when there
were birds on the pier.
These two measures have significantly reduced
the number of birds attracted to the pier resulting in far fewer negative
angler/bird encounters. Fewer birds also means less guano needing to be
removed from the railings and the benches.
third major issue was pier security during the nighttime hours. Goleta
Pier is a 24 hour facility but has no dedicated security staff unlike Stearns
Wharf, the other major pier in the area.
In addition alcohol is not currently restricted on the Pier resulting
in a number of incidents and complaints of rowdy and sometime outright
dangerous behavior which serves to deter the use of the pier by the non-drinking
One locus of such activity - the midpier,
substandard bathrooms, was addressed by an UPSAC proposal to convert that
building into a multi-purpose marine education center. The proposal was
approved by the Park Commission and is currently awaiting funding from
the County Board of Supervisors.
It is to be noted also that the Santa Barbara County Sheriffs
have recently upgraded their former 'gang unit' and have promised increased
cooperation in policing the pier. Hopefully this change will be effective
in attracting more people back to the pier.
Taken together these measures, along with
the opening of the Center itself, will demonstrate that the community has
taken a renewed interest in their pier and will no longer accept the level
of neglect and poor behavior that brought about last summer's crisis.
this dive boat appeared in the reef off the west side of the pier around
2pm. Since the vessel was well within the restricted area surrounding the
pier the incursion was reported to the Head Ranger.
The ranger walked out on the pier and made contact with the vessel.
He determined they were diving for the purple urchins that are beginning
to reestablish themselves in the reef.
This is yet one more
example of a local commercial fisherman unwilling to respect the posted
restrictions. After talking with the ranger they packed up their operation
and departed the area. Like the previous incident in May this also was
reported to the California Department of Fish and Game.
have to be honest though and admit that I have some mixed feelings about
the incursion. True the County has good reasons for restricting boating
and commercial activity around the pier ... not the least of which are
the impacts on the local anglers who also fish that reef.
And yet the purple
urchin is also a predator in the kelp beds and when populations are
unrestricted they can begin to consume the actual kelp holdfast causing
the entire kelp plant to become uprooted and washed ashore.
of the former natural controls were the Sea
Otters but due to their competition with abalone divers in the 1950's
they were harassed and driven to near extinction.
In order to reestablish the natural balance the State imported
otters into Southern California as an experiment. Many of those otters
have been killed and found washed up on the beaches.
As a result whole areas of the preexisting kelp canopy have been
denuded by the increasing urchin population. Attempts to reforest the canopy
were not successful.
This has a direct impact on nearshore fishing since kelp canopy
is the preferred habitat for many coastal species. Probably even more importantly,
at least here in Goleta, the disappearance of the former kelp canopy *,
which buffered the incoming waves, has left our beaches subject to increasing
The otter pictured was feasting on urchins from the reef last
April but was given no publicity at the time. Several years ago a picture
of another otter visiting Goleta and posted on the Internet resulted in
its being shot on a nearby beach. Since then I have discouraged any mention
of locally appearing otters.
* When Colonel Hollister began developing
his recently acquired property in Glen Annie canyon [1869-70] he imported
redwood from Santa Cruz in Northern California which was offloaded in the
surf at Goleta since there were no deep water local wharfs where the cargo
ships could dock.
He briefly considered building a 2000 foot
wharf in Santa Barbara but discarded the idea "since
the only hull available on the West Coast at the time was a propeller-driven
vessel, the Olympia, and the heavy
kelp beds that fenced off the channel shoreline made screw ships
Tompkins, Walter, The Yankee
Barbarenos, Movini Press, 2004.
of anniversaries ... these boots were new when I started just one year
Let's see, if the pier is 1450 feet long then one round trip
equals ... actually the perimeter is a little longer than 2900 feet
since the two fishing ells and the the hoist area enclose some additional
So ... let's say 3000 feet per round-trip following the railings
like I do.
Times 285 volunteer days equals 855,000 feet or approximately
162 miles those boots logged traveling the pier this last year.
Time for new boots!
Bob Serrano, an inspector with the State Lands Commission, former commercial
fisherman, and a long time Goleta Beach regular.
He has been talking with me about a pet project of his, Tar Free
Beaches! For anyone familiar with the local area the problem
of beach tar is well known.
Bob thinks there might be support for an organized effort to
remove the accumulated tar on a periodic basis - similar to other Beach
He would like to start exploring the possibilities here at Goleta
Beach with the opening of the Multi-Purpose Marine Center next spring which
would provide him with a fixed base from which to begin organizing.
Since he strongly supports the concept of community service he
also envisions Tar Free Beaches! as an excellent and easy initial introduction
to volunteer work.
I think it should also be accompanied by an overall beach
pick up as well since the county no longer grooms its bathing beaches.
This cost saving measure is supported, in part, by prevailing environmental
wisdom which notes that beach
wrack is an essential component of shoreline ecosystems and is best
left in place.
This same subject came up yesterday in conversation with my friend,
the Timbers' head chef and frequent Goleta Pier angler, Pino Castaneda.
Looking at an almost empty midmorning beach he wondered where all the people
were. "In my country the beach would be covered with blankets, umbrellas,
tents ... all summer long."
Used to be a lot more people here as well when the beaches were
groomed. With a volunteer effort we could at least offer a Tar&Trash
Free beach. Would make it a bit easier to live with the wrack.
Speaking of beach tar and oil seeps ... anglers at Goleta Pier
this morning were finding their lines coated in a thick brown goo. The
slick first appeared around 6am drifting in from the direction of Campus
Point. When it reached the pilings it backed up on itself forming intriguing
lava lamp like patterns.
Back in June we
posted a story of two drunk young men who jumped off the pier, swam to
shore and were arrested, in part, for violating Santa Barbara County code,
section 26-82: No person shall dive from the Goleta
Beach Pier or swim, surf or jet ski within one hundred feet of the Goleta
Beach Pier. (Ord. No. 3708, § 1).
So naturally I was surprised last Wednesday not only to see multiple
pier jumpers but surfers, swimmers and jet skiers all within the posted
restricted zone. When I checked with the lifeguard on duty (on the east
tower) I was told that the jumpers were Junior Lifeguards and he did not
feel he had the authority to question them or their sponsors.
Since there are several Junior Lifeguard programs in the County
I did a little research to see which group was at Goleta Beach last week.
Not only did I find the group
but they had also posted this
photo of one of their many "Pier Jumpers". Interestingly the
picture also includes the signboard next to the hoist where the pertinent
County regulations are posted.
Now I understand the need for realistic training exercises but
this event was not conducted as such. Rather it appeared to be a highly
anticipated special reward or rite of initiation. No problem with that
or the associated team and character building benefits but ... to use an
illegal activity as a reward?
It definitely sends the wrong message ... jumping off
public piers is not a permissible recreational activity anywhere in California.
Or do we look the other way when hoards of inebriated UCSB pledges stagger
out in the fall to engage in their own initiation rites?
Several more apparent exceptions to the
No Jumping from Pier ordinance ... yesterday, I was told this morning,
four divers, in full view of both lifeguards, walked out on the pier carrying
their wetsuits and dive tanks.
After changing they jumped off the pier
at the hoist area and swam under the pier and across to the channel between
the pier and the reef where they dove for over an hour to the vocal protests
of the anglers fishing that side of the pier.
And today around 4:30pm I noticed the lifeguard
from the west tower, on her surfboard, speaking to four young men who had
just dived off the east side of the pier at the hoist. They remained together
next to the pier for over 10 minutes.
Wondering what was going on I checked with
the lifeguard in the east tower who seemed as uncomfortable with my questioning
as he was last Wednesday. Strangely he then climbed
down and abandoned his post leaving rescue equipment behind. Later I saw
him on the west tower.
I walked out on the pier where I noticed
that her contact with the four men in the water appeared to be more social
than official. When I attempted to talk with her she returned quickly to
What was alarming was that the four men
did not appear to be competent swimmers since they could only manage a
rudimentary dog paddle swimming style and yet both lifeguards were now
on the wrong side of the pier to reach them quickly if problems had developed.
I met the men on the beach and they confirmed
that not only was she their personal friend but she had given them permission
to make the dive in advance and had left her post to accompany them in
Unbelievable! Is it expecting too much
that the life guards be required to enforce the posted rules? Shouldn't
they give full undivided attention to their area of responsibility instead
of leaving their posts with people still in the water?
I don't believe they should be permitted
to socialize with their friends while on duty. Nor should they use their
cell phone for extended conversations with their back to the water as I
observed last Wednesday. And they certainly do not have the authority to
encourage violations of the posted ordinances in non-emergency situations.
The Head Ranger was advised and he said
he would speak to the responsible agencies ... hopefully this situation
can be brought under control before a serious accident occurs and the County
becomes involved in a negligence lawsuit like this
one recently filed against the city of Santa Barbara.
Update: What I didn't mention
yesterday was that when I asked the lifeguard if she had given the divers
permission to jump I was apparently overheard by a group of young males
on the pier who began taunting her with their own requests for permission.
Now I find out that around 6pm the same
group disrobed, climbed up on the railing and yelling defiantly that they
didn't need permission, along with some choice obscenities, jumped
Ever wonder what the Goleta Beach area looked like before all the
changes brought about by the construction of the airport during WW11? Here
is a picture from the 1930's showing Mescalitán
Island (center left background)... it was the site of Helo', one of
the larger Chumash villages on the coast and the only one on the mainland
completely surrounded by water. Helo' could only be accessed by tomols
which were the unique Chumash plank canoes.