It took a core group of hardy public safety officers six years of grueling running and swimming events to raise enough money for one brown pelican to fly over the city's beach.
The bird, an 8-foot-tall, solid bronze statue of the endangered California brown pelican in flight, was finally dedicated in a sunset ceremony this past weekend.
The $20,000 statue was crafted to honor one of the most important figures in the history of ocean safety: Vincent Grigsby Moorhouse, who died in 1992.
Moorhouse started his career as a city lifeguard in 1949, after serving in the U.S. Navy as an elite underwater demolition team instructor and combat veteran. In 1957, he was promoted to lifeguard chief and began casting those who guarded the shore into a professional force, Marine Safety Officer Mike Bartlett said.
"Way back then, lifeguards had a beach-boy image," Bartlett said. "He brought that rigid [military] discipline to Huntington Beach."
Moorhouse was responsible for the perimeter defense system, in which a string of towers gives lifeguards overlapping views. Over time, other cities and even countries sent representatives to Huntington Beach to learn more about the system, Bartlett said.
To raise the money for the statue, Bartlett and other public safety officers entered multiple Coastal Crusades, a brutal six-day event that involves running and swimming along the coastline from Huntington Beach to Mexico.
The image of an endangered pelican was chosen to commemorate Moorhouse's commitment to environmentalism.