Here it is folks! The answer to California's budget and state park woes! Just close down the one mile stretch of beach in Santa Cruz known as Twin Lakes State Beach and all of our problems will be solved!
Okay, sarcasm exorcized. Frankly, I think I've done well to hold off until my 33rd blog to be a little bit snide. Those who know me well can surely appreciate my restraint.
Perhaps it is because this beach is part of my teenage stomping grounds that the announcement of its closure seems ridiculous. Back in the decades before the sun was so dangerous, and prior to tanning booths, my girlfriends and I would spend many hours at Twin Lakes Beach darkening our skin. Skipping class at West Valley College in Saratoga, we would see how fast we could drive over the mountain on Highway 17. Having lived to tell about it and made it to my "older and wiser years," (hah!) I will say that it now takes me twice as long to drive there than it used to.
The 70 parks on the closure list were selected in part by the amount of money they cost to keep open, and by their usage. I can assure you that when the sun comes out, lawn chair and umbrella space are at premium at Twin Lakes. Even on this blustery, midweek January day, people, dogs, kayakers and paddlers dotted the sand and water.
A small craft harbor sits approximately in the middle of Twin Lakes State Beach. Last year the harbor suffered over $17 million in damages as a result of the March 11, 2011, Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
Over a period of thirty-six hours, twenty-three docks were damaged or destroyed as the ocean kept rumbling in what locals said felt more like 40-50 tsunamis rather than one. More than a dozen boats capsized. Another hundred were damaged, despite harbor residents' efforts to lash them down.
Repairs are not expected to be complete until the end of 2013, although it is hoped that the commercial docks will be ready for the May 1 opening of salmon season.
Guiding the fishing crafts into the harbor is the other main focal point of Twin Lakes SB, the Walton Lighthouse. The structure that currently stands flashing its green beam every four seconds, was built in 2001. It replaced previous, unsightly lightbox and simple pipe buildings that have stood there since 1964, with this lighthouse and its more classic design. It was completed and dedicated on June 9, 2002. Charles Walton of Los Gatos, CA was a major contributor to the construction of the lighthouse, and it was named in honor of his brother Derek Walton, a merchant marine who was lost at sea during World War II.
A natural rock wall formation separates Twin Lakes from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and pier. In summer you can hear distant screams from the riders of the Giant Dipper Roller coaster. Depending on the tide and how willing you are to get wet, you can sometimes go around the rock and walk through a river to get to the boardwalk.
Or, you can walk a couple of street blocks and cross a railroad tressle over the river. I love the boardwalk, any boardwalk actually, but this one is my home. And I am particularly drawn to deserted amusement parks, so Roxy and I walked along the side of the tracks and headed over to the empty amusement park.
A chairless Ferris Wheel and a riderless chairlift looked spooky against an increasingly dark and stormy sky. Silent screams from non-existant roller coaster riders made my stomach flip, just like it does every time I stand in line for the ride. A hint of late afternoon sun on the midway created an eerie striped pattern on the walkway. I found it wonderfully magical, and strangely peaceful.
And speaking of peaceful, what central coast beach would be complete without a large peace sign drawn in the sand? It beckoned me to hangout for a bit longer, and await a more natural form of calm, an ocean sunset.
The beach "closes" at 10:00 pm. Perhaps whatever method they use to close the beach at night is what they will do if Twin Lakes closes permanently. I may have to return soon - with my flashlight - to find out exactly how that's done.
I hope to see you at the state parks.