More beach is covered

Visitors to Laguna’s famed tidepools will soon have more supervision.

The Laguna Ocean Foundation’s Tidepool Education Interpretive Program has been expanded to the north end of Main Beach, according to the foundation. The expansion, which will provide on-site docents to make sure tidepool rules and regulations are followed, is funded by a grant through the sale of Whale Tail License Plates from the California Coastal Commission.

“We are excited to receive funding to expand the Tidepool Education Interpretive Program beyond the Treasure Island tide pools to the Heisler Park tidepools,” said Louise Thornton, chairwoman of Laguna Ocean Foundation. “Although all of the intertidal habitats in Laguna Beach are Marine Protected Areas, the tidepools below Heisler Park are the most visited and most heavily impacted tidepools in California with an estimated 80,000 visitors a year.”

The Tidepool Education Interpretive Program began in 2006 at the Treasure Island tidepools below the Montage Resort and Spa in South Laguna.

As one of the original sites for the foundation’s all volunteer TideWater Docent Program, the Montage operators realized that a pristine coast was a major attraction to their guests, and the docents had an important role in protecting this asset.

The docents were also able to show visitors where some of the more fun and interesting organisms could be found, acting as informal “guides” of the marine ecosystem while protecting them from tampering.

The Montage Resort approached Laguna Ocean to form a partnership to expand the program beyond its volunteer base and, with a generous donation, the Tidepool Education Interpretive Program was formed. This new approach replaced volunteers with paid educators.

In the first year, the foundation was able to expand coverage at the Treasure Island site to more than double the previous year’s hours. Because most of the educators had previously volunteered in the docent program, the transition was seamless, according to the foundation.

The program was so successful Montage increased their donation to provide even more hours of coverage, and last year, educators spent almost 2,000 hours at the Treasure Island tidepools.

While the TideWater docents will continue volunteering at the Heisler Park tidepools, the expansion allows Laguna Ocean to further expand to other beaches beyond the currents sites of Heisler Park, Shaws Cove and Woods Cove.

Marine Protection Officer Calla Allison said the expansion will assist her duties.

“I credit the community outreach by Laguna Ocean Foundation and programs such as this with allowing me to focus more of my time on responding to gross violations and to areas that do not have any coverage,” she said.

“When the public goes to a national park or monument, they go with an expectation of respecting the resource. We hope to instill the same respect and ethic that the public use for these treasures to the treasure that is our coast,” Thornton said.

Those interested in becoming docents may contact Jake Bonus at (949) 395-2508 or

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