'Ambassadors' aid visitors with rules

By Terry Rodgers
Staff Writer

June 26, 2004

San Diego lifeguards at La Jolla Shores have received reinforcements to help bring more order to the summertime pandemonium of traffic, tourists and short tempers.

Two lifeguard "ambassadors," who will assist visitors with everything from restaurant recommendations to advice on where to swim, surf or kayak, began work yesterday.

The ambassadors' primary job is to make sure people are following the rules but with a gentle, friendly demeanor.

"The idea is not to be a heavy enforcement presence, but to educate people," said Lifeguard Lt. John Greenhalgh.

By monitoring parking and answering the myriad questions from the public, the ambassadors will allow lifeguards to keep their focus on water safety.

Councilman Scott Peters, who is funding the program for the summer with $20,000 from his City Hall office budget, said he got behind the idea after hearing complaints from the La Jolla Shores Association.

In recent years, La Jolla Shores beach has been exploited by surfing and diving schools and others trying to make a profit on city park property, said association vice president Mark Broido.

While the city has permited two surfing schools at the Shores, bootleg operators were illegally setting up on the beach with signs and sun shades, he said.

Illegally parked tourist buses also were causing havoc in the already congested parking lot, he said.

The lack of enforcement resulted in people parking too long in off-loading zones. The 15-minute parking limit at the boat launch site was routinely ignored. Jockeying for picnic benches and fire rings was also intense.

The ambassadors will ensure consistent enforcement of the rules, Peters said.

"We want organized chaos," he said. "We want everyone to be abiding by the rules."

The two ambassadors, Jeff Brown and Rob Brown, are veteran seasonal lifeguards familiar with the unique features of La Jolla Shores.

It's one of the busiest city beaches during the summer and one of the few where alcohol is prohibited at all times. It has a designated area for launching a small boat or kayak. Because it is within the La Jolla Underwater Ecological Reserve, the Shores is one of the few beaches where fishing is prohibited. The Shores also has a resident population of harmless leopard sharks that attract snorkelers and scuba divers.

"People are always asking about sting rays, jelly fish and leopard sharks," said lifeguard ambassador Jeff Brown.