SOUNDING OFF: The truth about kayaking

I'd like to clarify several aspects of Barbara Diamond's story ("Kayaking proposal resurfaces," Oct. 17).

I have been operating a quiet kayak tour business in North Laguna for several years.

I've conducted business in the same manner as the other kayak company, the numerous surf instructors, and the scuba and yoga classes: The reservations are made in advance and no money is exchanged on the beach.

I bring the kayaks down for the tour and remove them immediately after.

However, due to the growing popularity, I have sought to find a more suitable location "” where we don't impinge on residents.

After studying the entire coastline, I concluded the only other safe place to launch and land kayaks for novices is the north end of Treasure Island known as Goff Beach.

Not only does it have a protected cove that is nearly immune to dangerous shore break, it is also situated in a public beach park with parking, bathrooms and showers "” all the amenities that make it suitable for a public beach activity.

It also has unimpeded, 180-degree site lines, meaning we could also offer kayak rentals, something many locals have requested. So I am not seeking to expand my business. I'm looking to relocate it.

Unfortunately, when the city of Laguna Beach drafted the Treasure Island Coastal Development Plan, they designated the Goff Beach area as a Marine Life Refuge. This does not preclude eco-friendly activities like kayaking.

In fact, non-motorized boating is specifically cited as a condoned activity that carries no environmental risk. What is precluded is staging a commercial enterprise there.

That was designated for Treasure Island's southern beach "” the one that is contiguous with Aliso Beach.

The problem is the dangerous shore break there [near Aliso Beach]. So whoever drafted the plan clearly was not cognizant of the practical and safety considerations of launching and landing kayaks.

Hence the "catch 22": The place the city designated for commercial activities is not safe. The place that is safe was arbitrarily restricted.

So when I recommended going "back to the commission and saying we made a mistake," I was referring to the fact that, since we wrote the Local Coastal Plan, why couldn't we amend it?

The council recognizes what a long, painful slog that is, and hence came up with the more expedient solution of a one-year temporary use permit, to see how it goes.

Elizabeth Pearson pointed out that TUP's are issued all the time on city property. Barbara Diamond wrote that the cobblestone area of Main Beach is for nonprofits only. Why, then, are there arts and craft sales there nearly every weekend?

The bottom line is that Goff Island is the only place to make kayaking available to the public. We're not taking up a large footprint and depriving people of space on the sand. This is the most remote beach in the park, a trek of several hundred yards that most people are unwilling to make. And up until a few years ago it was inaccessible to anyone but Treasure Island residents.

I would much rather set up on the more crowded and accessible south end. But good judgment is paramount here. And so I must work much harder to make the public aware that we are down there.

And unlike the other beach businesses mentioned, I cannot just bring the kayaks down on demand. It's an ordeal to get them down there, and make them available to anyone who wants to rent one. Hence the application to do business on the beach.

I understand the concern. But food, art, surf gear, yoga mats and scuba tanks can all be sold or rented elsewhere and easily transported to the beach. Kayaks cannot.

There seems to be a groundswell of support for this, from the editors of this paper, to James Pribram, to the many folks who signed our online petition, to all five council members. The only opponents appear to be some retired folks who have a notion that all change is bad, including bars and restaurants.

Hey, we allowed you your Senior Center. How about allowing locals and visitors alike to enjoy a healthy, environmentally friendly activity that heightens awareness and appreciation for our beautiful coastline, on one remote beach that nobody uses, for just three months a year?

BILLY FRIED lives in Laguna Beach.

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