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Nerves vs. Steel : Fence Is Put Up to Stop Hair-Raising Leaps From Cliff

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Fieldstone building company is putting its foot down on scores of footloose teen-agers by building a fence around a Carlsbad canyon that has long been a favorite cliff-diving spot.

Workers on Friday were putting the finishing touches on the chain-link fence around Box Canyon, a move aimed at keeping youths from several 20-foot-, 45-foot- and 85-foot-high jumping spots that loom over snaking San Marcos Creek.

Although city officials have applauded the fence as a way to protect them from an unwanted liability, at least one nearby resident has complained to the builders that the $20,000 fence blocks the view of Batiquitos Lagoon and the ocean beyond.

“I have had some concern expressed about the type of fence, the placement of the fence and how much fence,” said Ruth Besecker, a Fieldstone spokeswoman.

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Moving the 2,000-foot-long fence deeper into the canyon as originally planned, she said, might have damaged some environmentally sensitive plants as well as made it easier to scale.

“I have had to tell at least one homeowner of our position with the fence, that we can’t please everyone,” Besecker said.

For more than a generation, Box Canyon has been a popular spot for North County youths who want to test their nerves and skill with jumps from its precarious cliffs--which overhang a freshwater hole about the size of a small public pool.

Some jumpers recall taking the Box Canyon leap in the mid-1960s--even before Carlsbad was a city, when the area was largely undeveloped and before youths had spray-painted the canyon walls with graffiti that include a drawing of a skull and crossbones and a scrawl that reads: Just Jump.

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Authorities say there have been at least one death and many injuries at the canyon over the years, adding that the canyon is hard to patrol because of the steep and treacherous, winding path leading to the jumping sites from Cadencia Street.

In recent years, neighbors have complained of scores of teen-agers who converge on the site on weeknights and weekends, parking their cars along the adjacent street.

“The situation became particularly bad last Easter when we had kids there 12 hours a day,” Besecker said. “We hired a man to look after the situation and quickly found he had a full-time job on his hands. So we realized building a fence was our only option.”

Besecker said the Fieldstone company owns several hundred acres in San Marcos Canyon that will eventually be deeded over to Carlsbad in an agreement with the city. For now, however, the land is Fieldstone’s to protect, she said.

Councilwoman Ann Kulchin said city officials are happy that the fence is being built.

“It’s a good thing they’re doing it,” said the councilwoman, whose daughter once made the Box Canyon jump as a teen-ager while holding hands with the high school quarterback.

“It’s been a liability for the city. Because, as everyone knows, anything that happens in this city is our fault. Two drunks hit each other on the road, and it’s our fault.”

Homeowners in the adjacent Seapointe condominiums say the fence will protect their property from the onslaught of youths who converge on the spot throughout the year, often spilling over into their back yards and community swimming pool.

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“With respect to those silly kids,” said Mike Packard, president of Packard & Loomis, property manager for the condominium complex, “the homeowners feel very good about it.”


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