After stalling for almost eight months, on April 19, the Oceanside city council has kicked the can down the road for another six months regarding which firm will operate the sportfishing landing at Oceanside Harbor.
However it seems changes are near for the multi-decade operator, Helgren’s Sportfishing, which was to vacate their seven-dock landing on May 4, after the city’s open proposal and bid process last August awarded the future operation to the proposed Oceanside Sea Center.
At the meeting, the council unanimously voted to extend Helgren’s lease until November 30. Mayor Wood said the city would continue to try to find a way for both the Sea Center and Helgren’s to operate in the harbor.
It now appears the city has finally realized that the two businesses would not work well together sharing the same dock space and tackle shop, thus the need for “more time to accommodate both parties,” Mayor Wood pointed out.
Of the numerous public speakers, the Helgren’s vs. Sea Center supporters were evenly split. Several Helgren’s supporters erroneously stated that sportfishing would disappear from Oceanside if Helgren’s left.
Captain Joe Cacciola of the Sea Star, one of three Sea Center partners, countered that his firm is based in sportfishing. “The center will add science, education, and public art,” Cacciola told the council.
Both Cacciola and Capt. Joey Helgren, owner of Helgren’s Sportfishing, said they supported the lease extension.
“Its not about us vs. them anymore,” said Cacciola. “There’s plenty of room elsewhere in the harbor should the city wish to accommodate them. But we fully expect to move forward on negotiations for the sole use of the building and docks at 315 S. Harbor Drive (the current site of Helgren’s.)
Cacciola reported to the council that Sea Center partner Capt. Ernie Preito, of the Chubasco II, based in Mission Bay, was in Washington State to purchase another boat to add to the proposed Sea Center fleet.
Under the Oceanside Sea Center plans, in addition to the sportfishing fleet, the partnership includes a planned ocean education center, aquarium, research vessels, and the offices of the sustainable fisheries research scientists from the Pfleger Institute for Environmental Research (PIER).
“People will be able to be part of the ocean, learn about its resources, without having to go out in the ocean,” added Cacciola.
The Sea Center proposal has the support of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, visitoceanisde.com, SeaCamp San Diego, Oceanside Senior Anglers, worldwide tackle manufacturer Pure Fishing (Berkley, Penn Reels, Shakespeare, etc.), Hookup Baits, Encinitas YMCA, and several elementary schools and Boy Scout troops.
Even though the packed council chambers were advised by the city clerk to not clap for individual speakers, even the council applauded the speech by 14-year-old Daniel Higley, who said he had grown up fishing for ten years with Capt. Joe. “The Sea Center will bring life to this city,” Higley told the council. “The economy will thrive down there and bring so much good.”