On May 1, 2006, policy will be put into effect banning our most beloved beach fires on Ocean Beach. Unless it isn't.
“There is nothing specific that's driving that May 1 deadline,” says Rudy Evenson, the Ocean Beach Project Manager in charge of assessing the situation and reporting back to Superintendent Brian O'Neil. “So the superintendent could decide to push it back or postpone it for whatever reason.”
Evenson works for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), a division of the National Park Service, which, in response to a resolution passed by the San Francisco Commission on the Environment in 2002, has been working toward a compromise between environmentalists who want to see an end to the broken glass, nails, and other debris left in the wake of the fires, and residents who consider toting a guitar and some wieners to the beach on a Saturday night their god-given right.
According to Evenson's research, the only way to meet the environmental goals is to better enforce current regulations, like those that prohibit alcohol on the beach and the burning of hazardous types of wood. But to enforce these rules would require an increase in park rangers (who patrol the beach; not the SFPD), something the GGNRA can't afford. Hence, the organization has been encouraging concerned parties to submit written public comments suggesting solutions (“Don't ban the fires!” isn't very helpful).
Of the 400-500 comments Evenson estimates he's received, ideas range from installing fire pits (too expensive) to better-educating the public (too pointless; alcohol's been banned for four years now … who knew?) to purchasing giant tractors (with magnets!) that will comb the beach slurping up glass and nails (too … sci-fi). After all is said and done, however, it would seem that there are simply too little resources available to the GGNRA to enact a compromise.
Evenson's office is accepting public comments on the matter through April 15; while a decision may not be made on May 1, it's reasonable to assume it's on the horizon. So, this means that all you aspiring city planners have just three more days to put your thinking caps on; otherwise, one of the most cherished traditions in the city will disappear. Non-suckas with miracle-worker status should e-mail Rudy_Evenson@nps.gov.