SoCal's world-class Sand Dune Park trashed by athletes: Did love kill a Manhattan Beach hotspot?
A reservation system? Unworkable. A permit system? Not enforcable. Keep Sand Dune Park closed permanently? Now there's a great idea.
That was the consensus Monday night at a long meeting described by Manhattan Beach Mayor Portia Cohen as a Town Hall on the future of the over-crowded, world-famous park that's been closed since mid-August to repair extensive damage by the public.
Now it's clear that Sand Dune Park will not be reopened until the tiny ocean-side town's politicians approve tougher parking and hours-of-use rules.
The goal: to rein in the chaotic overuse of a man-made dune that's used as a freebie workout area -- and hot location for hookups -- by college kids from all over Southern California as well as pros like Manhattan Beach residents Maria Sharapova and Luke Walton of the Lakers.
But here's why that emerging, and sure to be controversial, plan is going to prove so difficult:
It's all going to come down to some legal fine print, no matter what the locals do.
Last night, the town's Parks and Recreation Commissioner Richard Gill had expected a battle between the athletes/dune runners and nearby residents. Instead the meeting was dominated by locals who said they have had enough vomit, urine, feces and sand-filled socks left on their lawns and driveways.
"Pro" and "con" sheets were ripped from an easel and tacked on the wall, and by the end of the night there were eight "pro" sheets filled with ideas for "repurposing" the park and only two "con" sheets that opposed new restrictions on how the park gets used.
"Where are the supporters of keeping it open?" Gill wondered. "They certainly aren't here tonight."
The little pocket park became a crowded, globally known workout destination and hookup spot thanks to the Internet. Though the tone last night was civil for the most part, the locals made several hostile statements about "outsiders" who ruined the peaceful vibe of the neighborhood near Bell and 33rd Streets.
The small dune got badly mashed and trampled last summer by as many as 300 athletes and other runners -- all elbowing each other for a place to run. Although many were college students or well-known athletes, locals like Dennis White said they brought a surprising amount of crime and rotten behavior with them.
Victoria Peters told the town hall that "No catalytic converters have been stolen in the neighborhood since the dune closed." Another man said: "There won't be as much vomit on our lawns." That view was written up on the big sheet as: "Less vomit."
But there could be a major legal hangup to returning the park to local use. Gill informed the audience that City Attorney Robert Wadden believes that legally, whatever the City Council decides to do must apply to all L.A. County residents -- not just locals.
If it's open, it must be open to all. If it's closed, closed to all.
One resident said that was only Wadden's opinion and would likely be challenged in court -- if things devolve that far.
Given the strong opinions about Sand Dune Park on Monday night, that's clearly a possibility.