If the city can't afford to maintain the fire pits on its beaches, can community members step in? Members of Ocean Beach's planning board pondered that question at its January 6 meeting, discussing City of San Diego plans to do away with 186 beach fire pits. The city says $120,000 is needed for another year of pit maintenance, which is currently performed by two city employees.
Local business owner Frank Gormlie asked the planning board to fight for the eight fire pits in Ocean Beach. Gormlie argued that, in addition to their recreational value, the pits play an important safety role. Gormlie said a fire-department veteran he spoke with believes that, without pits, some beach visitors would make illegal beach fires, leaving behind embers and other hazards that would put law-abiding beachgoers at risk.
The board unanimously resolved that the "Ocean Beach Planning Board strenuously opposes the removal of fire pits from Ocean Beach Park" and will forward the resolution to the City.
To save the eight fire pits in Ocean Beach, Gormlie has organized an "Adopt-a-Fire-Pit" program, under which citizens and businesses would assume responsibility for OB's pits. The board seemed intrigued by Gormlie's plan, though one member raised liability concerns.
Matthew Awbrey, representing councilmember Kevin Faulconer, said Faulconer was "very receptive to the idea" of community members maintaining fire pits. "A couple challenges exist," Awbrey noted, such as potential conflict from volunteers taking over work of unionized city employees.