Encinitas closes two popular Cardiff walking trails to enforce social distancing

The Encinitas City Council decided to close down the pedestrian portion of Coast Highway from Swami’s Beach to the Seaside Parking Lot, shown here on April 15, 2020.
The Encinitas City Council decided to close down the pedestrian portion of Coast Highway from Swami’s Beach to the Seaside Parking Lot, shown here on April 15, 2020.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Council directs staff to come up with other outdoor options


Due to their overwhelming popularity and resulting inability to maintain compliance with social-distancing orders, two Cardiff coastal walkways have closed.

The closure of the pedestrian path along the west side of South Highway 101 and the Coastal Rail Trail east of the railroad tracks were announced Wednesday, April 15, and took effect Thursday, April 16. At a meeting Wednesday, April 15, City Council members said they wished the city didn’t have to close the walkways and asked city employees to come up with other outdoor exercise options for the city’s frustrated, cooped-up residents.

Perhaps, the council members said, Encinitas could set up one-way walking zones in some popular areas or even encourage pedestrians to walk in the now mostly unused, parking strips along the coastal highway.

Councilman Tony Kranz said he was “frustrated” that the city had to close the paved pathway at the city’s far southern end of Coast Highway, but added, “I recognize that its popularity has been its downfall.”

Nearby residents have informed the city that people from other parts of town, or even other towns, were driving to the coastal area, parking their vehicles and then taking walks, rather than exercising in their own neighborhoods. In emails to the city, residents wrote that they believed that was the primary cause of the walkway congestion. There was even a report of street musicians setting up along one pathway and playing for passing pedestrians.

The closure order, which does not have a set end date, covers the pedestrian portion of Coast Highway from Swami’s Beach to the Seaside Parking Lot. Parking along San Elijo Avenue from Santa Fe Drive to Chesterfield Drive also has been banned.

This is the latest in a series of steps the city has taken to control the spread of the coronavirus. The “passive” areas of Encinitas city parks remain open, but the playgrounds, skate parks and other “active recreation” areas closed in mid-March.

For the most part, residents have been complying with the closure order, though they’re still having problems at the skate park at Encinitas Community Park and the skate feature at Leucadia Oaks Park, Jennifer Campbell, the city’s parks, recreation and cultural arts director, told the council Wednesday, April 15.

Closing the region’s beaches has drawn the most community opposition, and the city’s mayor said Wednesday, April 15, that she is now working with area mayors and state officials on a timeline for reopening the beaches. They would like to do it in a coordinated fashion, so that they don’t have beaches closed in one community and open in the one next door, Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.

Larry Giles, the city’s marine safety captain, told the council that lifeguards have been finding people at the beaches, but when they’re informed that they must leave, “they’re complying in all cases” and no citations have been issued.

Council members also got an update Wednesday, April 15, on the city’s finances. Teresa McBroome, the city’s finance director, said the news was mostly bad, adding that “the only good news I have” is that the county is reporting that most people paid their property taxes on time.

The bad news? The economic impact projections she made just two weeks ago are now being revised downward. Instead of a $2 million reduction in general fund revenue in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, it’s going to be $3 million, she said. When the council approved its current budget last spring, general fund revenue was forecast to total just under $77.3 million in the current fiscal year.

— Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


10:08 a.m. April 17, 2020: This story was updated April 17 at 10:08 a.m.