Eleven years in the making, a new Encinitas lifeguard tower at Moonlight Beach finally got the green light. The city’s planning commission unanimously approved it last week.
The new “Marine Safety Center” was conceptually approved back in 2013, but architect Stephen Dalton of Solana Beach has been working on it since 2005, when he won the city’s “needs assessment” bid for planning future beach facilities. Besides the design for the lifeguard facilities, a new concession/restroom building, completed in 2013, was part of the project.
Capt. Larry Giles of the lifeguard service says the current tower is “falling down.” The tower also has a lot of blind spots when lifeguards are scanning the ocean, due to supporting beam structures.
“We don’t know how old it is…probably built in the 1960s. There’s no records,” Giles said in an interview after the affirmative vote. Prior to the city’s 1986 incorporation, the county and state shared Moonlight’s operation.
At a cost of two to three million dollars, the new two-story facility will have a better first-aid station downstairs.
“Sometimes we have 10 to 12 ray stings a day,” said Giles. “It will also serve as the hub for our emergency communications between our ten towers.”
The new center will have animal pens for sea-life rescues, to hold and care for animals until SeaWorld or other rescue agencies can arrive. Also new, a workspace for a sheriff’s deputy. “The [beach] access and response time will be much better,” said Giles.
The only curious addition to the new center, a two-story pole for lifeguards to slide down. Giles explained that with a pole, a lifeguard can keep his eyes on the rescue victim, rather than possibly losing sight while running down stairs.
“It can’t happen soon enough,” said resident Glenn O’Grady, whose son is a lifeguard.
“The beach has much more use than it did back in the day,” said commissioner Tony Brandenburg when casting his YES vote.
Construction begins after Labor Day (September 5) and will be completed before Memorial Day weekend 2017 (May 26).
Historical footnote: Reportedly, Moonlight Beach got its name because area residents in the early 1900s would hold midnight picnics by moonlight.
Moonlight Beach is officially a California State Beach park. But, once incorporated, the city, realizing the lack of state funding and planning and the threat of the state adding parking fees, negotiated oversight away from the state-park system. With the exception of Cardiff State Beach, the City of Encinitas controls all of its beachfront.