~  Pierheads's ~
Goleta Pier Log

PFIC Get-Together, Goleta Pier,  July 2003.  Photo credit:  Rich Reano, webmaster,  www.pierfishing.com

Previous Month   Original Fishing Site   Photo Essays   Fishing Logs   Statistics
 Volunteer Time:
2006 (total):    103 days, 169 hours
2007 (to date):  193 days, 314.75 hours

August 1st, 2007:

This 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.

Another major issue at Goleta was the problem of birds being caught by anglers or entangled in improperly discarded fishing line. UPSAC focused on two approaches:

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.

The 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 public. 

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 recently 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. 

August 6th, 2007:
Yesterday 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.

I 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. 

One 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 erosion.

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 impractical". 

Tompkins, Walter, The Yankee Barbarenos, Movini Press, 2004.

August 7th, 2007:

Speaking of anniversaries ... these boots were new when I started just one year ago. 

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 space. 

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!

August 8th, 2007:
Meet 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 Cleanup campaigns.

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.

August 11th, 2007:

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. 

August 12th, 2007:

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? 

August 15th, 2007:

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 the beach.

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 the water. 

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 en masse. 

August 22nd, 2007:

Photo Credit:   Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
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.

Questions or comments? ... email  Pierhead

Copyright © 2007 by Boyd Grant.  All Rights Reserved