The Gem of Encinitas: Moonlight Beach
Moonlight State Beach is a true gem in the 92024 community. The beach has been popular with beachgoers for more than one hundred years and offers everything one could ever want to enjoy in a day at the beach. We had the opportunity to learn the history of the beach, discover the success of the Encinitas Junior Lifeguard and Beach Kids programs and uncover what’s in store for Moonlight this Fall. Our hats go off to the lifeguards, the Marine Safety Department and the City of Encinitas for keeping Moonlight that simple, beautiful and fun place where everyone wants to hang out.
What is your role with operations of Moonlight State Beach as Recreation Supervisor?
I am responsible for administering our Encinitas Junior Lifeguard Program and Encinitas Beach Kids programs. Our Parks and Beaches Division staff handle day-to-day maintenance of the facility and along with our Administrative Services Division, plan and coordinate projects. The Admin division permits use of the Facility for special events, surf instruction and concessions.
Moonlight State Beach is a State Beach but it is run by the City of Encinitas. Please explain the role the City has in operations.
Moonlight Beach is owned by the State of California and operated by the City through a long-term lease agreement. The City maintains and operates Moonlight State Beach under a Memorandum of Understanding. This MOU gives the city the right to maintain and operate Moonlight State Beach as well as Beacon’s and Grandview Beach accesses. The City pays for all maintenance and operations costs and the State approves all improvements.
What sets Moonlight State Beach apart from other local beaches?
Moonlight Beach really is a gem that has been popular with beachgoers around here for more than a hundred years. The natural “cove” creates a cozy, tucked-in facility that offers everything you could ever want to enjoy your day at the beach. It’s so convenient, just a straight shot down Encinitas Blvd. to the Ocean, plenty of freeparking (free, seriously, where else do you find that these days?), a concession stand that serves great food, some of the best ocean lifeguards in the business and tons of sand and awesome surf breaks. With the addition of the playground structure and grassy areas a few years back, we’ve got you covered even if you somehow get tired of the surf and sand. The iconic tall Canary Island Palm just looks so cool too. As if that’s not enough, show up any day and you’re sure to see some amazing beach volleyball talent on the courts and maybe spot a pro or two. On December 23rd this past year, local kids even took to sledding “Encinitas Style” on the sand berm in front of the lifeguard tower. How cool is that?
What are the most popular programs/events that take place at Moonlight State Beach?
Event-wise, without a doubt, the annual Switchfoot Bro-Am event is the biggest at Moonlight Beach. The 8-year event features huge bands, top pro surfers and what seems like the entire surf and music world right on our beach. Every year, Moonlight Beach hosts the Encinitas Sports and Fitness Festival in May which includes Triathlons, a Duathlon, a 5K Run, Paddle and Swim events as well as an expo. Every summer, the City of Encinitas “Sunday Summer Concerts by the Sea” series featuring a main stage right on the sand, is a big hit in July and August. In September, all the classic “Woodies” will make their way to Moonlight Beach for the 33rd year at the annual Woody Meet. Without a doubt, the biggest beach program in Encinitas is Junior Guards. For almost 20 years, it has been almost a rite of passage for Encinitas youth and teens. Going into its third summer, Beach Kids turns the little Encinitans into confident and skilled beach-goers. Parks and Rec also runs surf camps and clinics year round right at Moonlight Beach.
Why is Moonlight State Beach such a popular beach among locals and tourists alike?
It simply has it all and is the place to be. If you’re local, you’re bound to run into friends there. Right next to downtown and the 101, it’s just such a fun place to hang out. Tourists love it for the free parking, its ease of use, the great views from the bluff above and the sense of security in having lifeguards keeping a watchful eye on the surf. What’s not to like?
What changes have been made to Moonlight State Beach since its establishment?
The Moonlight Beach Overlook (at the end of C St.) was added in 1998. It has been a popular wedding venue ever since. The playground was added in 2000, and the attached picnic area along Cottonwood Creek was added in 2006.
Moonlight State Beach is about to have a complete makeover. Please provide specific details of what beachgoers are to expect in the near future.
Moonlight beach will get a whole new look. The existing concession stand and restroom facilities will be removed and a new combined restroom and concession stand building will go up at the toe of the parking lot slope. The restroom building will have two family style restrooms, with changing rooms within the men’s and women’s restroom. Shuffling things around will result in more open beach space and add a paved ADA accessible walk around the iconic palm tree. Also the fire pits will be relocated and 4 of them will be ADA accessible. A lot of thought and effort has gone into the design of the facilities and aesthetics. A big goal of the project is for facilities to have a natural fit and feel in the cove and to look great.
Will the makeover impact the accessibility of the beach?
Yes, during construction limited access will be available. Construction is scheduled to begin in September 2012 and to be complete by mid May 2013.
What is the history behind Moonlight State Beach? How did it come to be?
It had a lot to deal with Cottonwood Creek, the freshwater creek that empties into the ocean. It drains directly in to Moonlight State Beach. Also, a train used to stop here for water. It had to get the water in order to operate. Having this train stop brought the small town to become a city.
In the 1920’s the beach used to have a restaurant, pool hall, dance hall and burger stand. It started out as a beach run by county lifeguards. The state parks took it over in the 1960’s. They remodeled it and dismantled the old facilities. Wood from the dismantled dance hall and bathhouse was recycled by one of Encinitas’ most noted recyclers, Mr. Miles Minor Kellogg. Since the building had a low ceiling, the wood wasn’t long enough to use in an ordinary house. Mr. Kellogg had an interest in the sea, so the idea came to him to use the material to build boat houses. The boat houses seen on 3rd Street in Encinitas today are the result of his skills and imagination.
It is said that the “moonlight” in the name of the beach comes from the fact that local residents used to come to the area for midnight picnics early in the early 1900s. Please confirm and/or elaborate.
That is one reason that is out there. It is also said that Moonlight Beach got its name during the bootlegging era of alcohol. Al Capone ran a big operation in Mexico. He and his crews would traffic rum-runs up to areas off the coast. Moonlight Beach was notable from boats offshore because the sand would light up to the boaters looking for shore. The visual is one version of why Moonlight Beach holds its name.
The Marine Safety division of the City of Encinitas is responsible for providing beach safety services for the 3.5 miles of coastline at Encinitas owned or operated beaches. What are the beach services provided?
Encinitas lifeguards attempt to ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable time at our City beaches. We perform swiftwater, cliff, open and under-water rescues, first-aid, mitigation of safety hazards on the beach and provide public safety information. We perform medical aid coverage in the water on the beach and all waterways within the City.
Hazardous material spills that involve beach, ocean, and waterways are taken care of by the division. Jr. Lifeguard programs are under our role. We also have our lifeguard trucks and small boats to patrol waterways and beaches.
Have members of operations of Moonlight State Beach received any accolades or awards for their service(s)? If so, please provide details.
Paul Giuliano will be receiving an award on July 17 for his years of service with the city.
If your kids love the ocean, and perhaps all the more if they don’t, you’ll want to sign them up for Encinitas Beach Kids. Lead Instructor Crystal Hollins has been a lifeguard since her youth. Her love of the sun and surf, and her desire to share that love with kids, prompted her to create the program after seventeen years as founder and instructor for the successful Junior Lifeguard program.
In 2010, Crystal left the Junior Lifeguard program in Jon Strickland’s hands and decided to launch a new venture. “I saw an opportunity to focus on the younger kids and teach them safety and educate them while playing games and having fun at the beach,” explained Crystal. The result was Encinitas Beach Kids, now in its third year.
Held every summer in two-week sessions at Moonlight Beach, the program teaches 6, 7 and 8 year olds about beach safety, marine animals, basic first aid, water etiquette and body boarding. “The goal is to focus on the fears young kids have at that age and to educate them while building confidence,” explained Crystal, “all while enjoying the beautiful beach environment that we live in.”
Crystal packs the three-hour sessions full of fun activities, including water games, beach relays and obstacle courses. Participants also get to learn first aid skills, do crafts and games with marine animal props and paint their faces on “Zinka” days.
With only one other program of its kind in the county, Encinitas offers a special experience for local children, with teachers who are enthusiastic to share their love of the ocean. As Crystal remarked, “The best part about teaching the kids is seeing them learn and grow up each summer and seeing the young adults they turn out to be.”
Crystal enjoys running, swimming, surfing and playing with her five children. She looks forward to helping the program grow and watching even more children become avid beachgoers, lifeguards or even instructors. Have kids of your own? Check it out at www.encinitasbeachkids.com.
Encinitas residents already know all the beauty Moonlight Beach has to offer. The fine sand, playground, picnic tables, parking, restrooms and concession stand make it a primary destination for beachgoers. Those features also make it the perfect home for a junior lifeguard program.
“Our goal is to educate young people in ocean and beach safety while building self-confidence and appreciation for the ocean,” explained Lead Instructor and Encinitas native Jon Strickland. For the last 22 years, the program has done just that. Encinitas Beach Kids director Crystal Hollins founded the program in 1992 with 12 participants, and this year, the program had more than 1,000 participants and was the largest program of its kind in the county.
The Encinitas Junior Lifeguard Program teaches ocean safety to kids aged 9-17. The goal is to build their stamina and teach lifesaving skills while participants enjoy swimming, surfing, body-boarding and competing. In other words, they learn critical skills while having a great time. This year, they will have a local paraplegic buoy-swimmer as a guest speaker and will send teams to the Cal State Games and the Junior Lifeguard Regional Competition.
“Our program has a unique environment and extremely passionate professional lifeguard instructors,” elaborated Jon. This is Jon’s third year overseeing the Junior Lifeguard program, and his twelfth year as an ocean lifeguard with the city. “It is really rewarding to watch [the instructors] settle into their roles and become great assets within the program,” he remarked. “We are a mix of young professionals who love to teach our summer trade.”
A graduate of UC Santa Barbara and an avid triathlete, Jon brings a wealth of experience to the program. In addition to his exceptional athleticism, including two successful Alcatraz swim crossings, he has worked as a volunteer firefighter, an Emergency Medical Technician and a high school teacher. Jon enjoys traveling and has visited twelve countries, but is proud to call Encinitas home and truly enjoys his work. “I am thankful every day that my parents raised me in Encinitas and I am able to call Moonlight Beach my office.”[tabs] [tab title=”Highlights”]
• 12.7 acres with fire rings, picnic tables, showers, restrooms, concession building, new children’s play area and 203 parking spaces
• Over 1.4 million annual visitors
• Approximately $400,000 spent annually on operations, maintenance and lifeguard services
• Cottonwood Creek serves as the outfall for a majority of the Encinitas storm water runoff
• Home to numerous special events and activities throughout the year, to include Encinitas Triathlon, Encinitas 5K, Jr. Lifeguards and summer concerts
• October 1989 city enters into a 20-year operating and maintenance agreement with the state
• 1990 Public workshops and meetings held with State agencies to develop master plan
• 1996 Council and State approval of master plan
• 1999 City constructs the C Street Overlook ($200,000), per approved master plan
• 2001 UV filtration plant installed
• 2002 SANDAG beach replenishment project is completed (88,000 cubic yards of sand)
• 2002 parking lot improvements to include turf along sidewalks and palm tree plantings ($20,000)
• December 2002 State Parks Collaborative established
• July 2003 Traffic and Hydrology Studies completed (recommended changes to traffic and drainage)
• January 2004 Playground area completed ($166,000), per approved master plan
• May 2005 Loading zone improvements completed and the sand area is extended, ice-plant removed ($20,000)
• April 2005 Staff begins negotiations with the State for extending lease agreement
• December 2007 Staff completes negotiations with State for extension of lease agreement
• 2008 Lease agreement approved by City Council[/tab] [/tabs]