UCSD Pays $500K for Lifeguards at Black’s Beach

Nolan Thomas/UCSD Guardian

Following UCSD’s announcement that the campus will fund $502,873 in lifeguard services at Black’s Beach starting March 14, two rescues took place on March 29.

According to UCSD spokesperson Rex Graham, the first rescue took place yesterday at 3:05 p.m., when a 22-year-old female UCSD student was rescued and did not sustain any injuries.

The second rescue took place at 4:10 p.m., involving a male UCSD student who lives in Tioga who was with two non-UCSD friends. The three individuals were also not injured.

In the one-year agreement with the City of San Diego, the university will fund two winter-season lifeguards, while the city will pay for an additional four lifeguards during summer. The increase will provide Black’s Beach with two lifeguards during winter and six during summer season — the same amount as before the 2009 state budget cuts.

“We will pay in the winter months and they will pay during the regular year,” Matthews said.

Nolan Thomas/UCSD Guardian

Budget cuts reduced lifeguard services to two lifeguards during high season, from mid-June to Labor’s Day, and eliminated during the winter.

Black’s Beach, the closest beach to campus, has been partially owned by UCSD since 1967.

According to Vice Chancellor of Resource Management and Planning Gary Matthews, it is frequented by many students and faculty members throughout the year. Matthews said the beach’s frequent use by students made the university feel an obligation to help pay for the additional services.

“We were probably the only ones who could afford [to pay] and [UCSD] is the most directly impacted due to the number of students and faculty that visit [Black’s Beach],” Matthews said. “It was a matter of safety so it was an important thing to do. Plus, the beach is partially owned by UCSD.”

UCSD’s involvement is the result of a partnership between Chief of San Diego Lifeguard Services Rick Wurts and Matthews.

Wurts contacted Matthews when staffing was cut in 2009 and then made an agreement with the office of City of San Diego councilmember Sherri Lightner to split the cost of lifeguard funding.

Matthews said there has been criticism regarding UCSD’s decision to spend $500,000 — which come from the university’s campus budget — in the midst of further cuts in state funding. Matthews said the money spent is justified because it helps the public.

“What is the value of a human life?” Matthews asked. “How do you put a price on a human life?”

Lightner said it is important for lifeguard services to resume because the cliff access can make it dangerous.

“Black’s is a very unique beach,” Wurts said. “It can only be accessed from a long path or a hike. This makes it harder for lifeguards to come from nearby beaches if there were an emergency.”

He also said that Black’s is an attractive location for inexperienced surfers.

“Black’s has a world renowned surf but it is dangerous to not-so-experienced surfers and swimmers,” Wurts said.

Parts of Black’s Beach also belong to Torrey Pines State Beach. Lightner and her staff are currently looking to see if the state will provide funding for additional lifeguard services.

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