Fire-building visitors to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach this summer may have to contend with some new rules this summer as the National Park Service finds the best ways to avoid crime and mess on the beach, NPS officials said Monday.
A proposed pilot program from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend would roll back the latest time fires would be allowed but add fire pits.
The rule changes are a reaction to ongoing problems with fire burning at the beach including burning toxic materials such as wooden pallets, furniture and trash; broken glass, hot coals and nails on the beach; and illegal activity including assaults, underage drinking and drug use, NPS officials said.
The NPS has allowed fires on the beach since it took over its management in the 1970s but started rolling back where and when fires were permitted in 2002.
The agency has considered banning the fires outright since that time but has yet to take that step.
Instead, fires have been limited to before 10 p.m. and in designated locations since 2007. The fire rings include artistic pits provided by Burners Without Borders.
But with the new rules, fire burning will only be allowed until 9 p.m. and the five existing pits will be replaced with 10 larger pits. The artistic pits will be returned to Burners Without Borders, the NPS said.
“Burners Without Borders did a great job making those but they weren’t able to hold up to the elements—Ocean Beach is unforgiving,” National Park Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said.
Alcohol, glass and illegal drugs have been banned at the beach and will continue to be banned, Picavet said.
She said that there would be more signs and a public outreach campaign to make sure that fires are started and burned safely and that beach-goers put out their fire by the 9 p.m. cutoff.
The beach remains open to visitors all night long but camping is not allowed, Picavet said.
The success of the pilot will be reevaluated at its conclusion and the NPS may take the steps of continuing the rule changes or, if there’s no abatement in the problems, make further adjustments in the rules or consider banning fires outright, the NPS said.
The NPS is looking for volunteers to help keep the beach clean as well. More information is available at parkplanning.nps.gov/oceanbeachfires.
Scott Morris, Bay City News