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Del Mar Bans Beach Fires; No Vote on Drinking

Times Staff Writer

The Del Mar City Council Monday night voted to ban bonfires on city beaches for six months in an effort to reduce wild parties and beach pollution.

The council voted 3 to 1, with one abstention, to ban all fires except those using charcoal for cooking in portable barbecues.

With the action, the council hopes to dampen the parties at River Mouth Beach that have upset homeowners and left the beach littered with glass, cans, nails and burnt wood.

The ban will last until at least May 1. A city committee will study further restrictions at the beach.

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Councilwoman Jacqueline Winterer said she hopes the ban will “break a pattern of hooliganism.”

Councilwoman Jan McMillan said “the bonfires are a magnate for inappropriate behavior” for restless young people in North County.

Eight people were arrested at River Mouth Sept. 4 during a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies, although formal charges have yet to be filed. The case is being studied by the district attorney’s office.

After hearing two hours of testimony about the beach, council members delayed voting on a proposed ban on drinking at the beach.

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River Mouth, quite literally, is where the surf meets the turf in Del Mar--directly west of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Highway 101, where the San Dieguito River meets the sea.

During the summer racing season, the beach is popular with backstretch workers--grooms, walkers, jockeys, trainers--who meet there each evening to cook dinner over open fires.

Most River Mouth regulars, however, are the young set from North County. The beach is popular because drinking and beach fires are allowed and the area does not fall victim to the nightly high tide.

There are nine fire rings north of the river. When all the rings are in use, illegal fires on the beach are common.

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Increasing complaints from homeowners,, both about the noise from parties and environmental damage to the beach, prompted the City Council to consider a ban on fires and drinking.

The Sept. 4 ruckus began as a protest over the proposed ban.


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