Friday, May 20, 2011

Pinnipeds vs. The People

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published May 5, 2011]  © 2011

I have to confess my husband implored me not to write about the seals.  He works hard enough, he says, without having to come home to crosses burning on the front lawn. 

So let me start out by saying that it was incredibly generous of Ellen Browning Scripps to have donated the money for a breakwater at Seal Rock Point some eighty years ago as “a gratuity to children”. 

But in more recent years, WHAT children?

Maybe I just walked by at all the wrong times, but I rarely – pre-seals - saw many children at the Children’s Pool.  In fact, most of the habitués in the last few decades seem to have been teenagers with group death wishes hanging out on the sea wall during storm surf.  (They’re actually still there, same death wish, going for up-close-and-personal photo-ops with the seals.)

I’m sorry, Ellen, because I know you were very well-intentioned.  And because in 1931, I’ll bet there weren’t that many back yard pools.  Heck, there weren’t that many people (less than a tenth of what there are now.)   And you could probably even park in downtown La Jolla since there weren’t that many cars either.  But the times I took my now-30-something kids to the Children’s Pool, I had to schlep a two-year-old and a four-year-old and all their beach stuff a number of  blocks from my parking place across traffic then navigate down three slippery sets of steps to the beach.  The teeny weeny beach.  The beach that had about fifty feet of water front and if I recall, a rather nasty drop off.

This wasn’t exactly the beach of this toddler parent’s dreams.  As a nice enclosed space where it was fun to wade, it was good.  But if the kids actually wanted to get wet, I found La Jolla Shores or Pacific Beach at low tide preferable and a lot more accessible.

Now, of course, the entire infrastructure of the Children’s Pool is disintegrating. Even the bathrooms have succumbed to decay, replaced by five totally rank view-busting Porta Potties  (a.k.a. The Restrooms of Last Resort) on the street level three flights up. 

But during its heyday, the Children’s Pool enjoyed a definite success.  People in my age group  who grew up here would attest to many happy memories there.  Probably not coincidentally, a number of such acquaintances are among the most vocal members of the Nuke The Seals (as one insists she’d happily do) faction. 

But in my observation, over the last three decades, the Children’s Pool has been pretty much abandoned.   If Ellen had had a crystal ball along with her desire to promote water safety, she would have left a second bequest to the Murray Callan Swim School.  It was there, the Y, the Back Yard Swim program, the Beach and Tennis Club, the family pool or a host of other  swimming locations that kids in the last thirty or so years have been hanging out.

As for the shared use proposal, however appealing the concept is, I’m not seeing tiny kids, tiny beach, wild animals, and coliform bacteria as a winning combination. 

I don’t remember precisely when our controversial Pinnipeds first moved from the adjoining rocks to the sand but I am fairly certain that the seals didn’t stage a Normandy-style invasion against a beachlet of terrified tots.  The beach was pretty much there for the taking.

So what’s going on here?  For some, is this a case of nostalgia run amok?  For others, I have no clue.  Hate marine mammals if you will, but deliberately crossing the rope barrier to torment baby seals in the name of “children” has a logic that I don’t get. 

Assuming the seals are driven from the beach in Ellen’s honor by continued marine mammal mayhem, is this suddenly going to be become a Shangri-La full of frolicking kids again?  Maybe, but not likely.  It will still be a massively decaying structure with impossible parking and a residual seal poop problem akin to Chernobyl. 

There is now a security guard at the Children’s Pool to mediate warfare between the Seal Sadists and the pro-animal Sealots.  The adults in our otherwise-wonderful internationally-renowned community have been polarized by a legal and verbal fight to the death over the exclusive rights of use of a tiny beach that the exclusees abandoned years ago. 

 The kids, meanwhile, are adoring the seals.

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