State Budget Cuts Impacting Local Parks, Beaches
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Recent cuts to city and state budgets are affecting local beaches and parks. We take a look at how this impacts the quality of life for San Diego residents.
DOUG MYRLAND (Host): You’re listening to These Days in San Diego. I’m Doug Myrland sitting in for Maureen Cavanaugh. Well, recent cuts to city and state budgets are affecting local beaches and parks. And in this next segment we'll talk about how this impacts the quality of life for San Diego residents. Our guests are Brian Ketterer from the State Parks Department. He’s a California State Parks District Superintendent. Welcome, Brian.
BRIAN KETTERER (California State Parks District Superintendent): Thank you.
MYRLAND: Joining us by telephone is Joe Terzi, CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Joe, we’re glad you could be with us on the program.
JOE TERZI (CEO, San Diego Convention and Visitor’s Bureau): Thanks so much.
MYRLAND: And also with us is Gavin McBride from the San Diego Association for Lifeguards. Gavin, thanks for being here.
GAVIN MCBRIDE (San Diego Association for Lifeguards): Good morning.
MYRLAND: Good morning. And we’re very interested to hear from our listeners on this subject. If you’re concerned about cuts to the state parks, please share your experience at 1-888-895-5727. And, Brian, I want to start with you for just a minute. Overall, what kind of cuts have we been facing in the last year or so?
KETTERER: The last year, we’ve seen a cut of approximately $14.8 million to the overall State Department of Parks & Recreation budget. What that means for San Diego for the places that I manage, the coastal units, is about a $2.1, 2.3 million cut in staff services.
MYRLAND: And in terms of percentages, what would that be to your budget?
KETTERER: It’s about 30%.
MYRLAND: Which is a significance.
KETTERER: Yeah, quite significant. We’ve taken it out of the number of places so it’s not just in staff services. We’ve lost Schedule 9 funding, which was our automotive, some of our office staff and clerical work, some of our material purchasing.
MYRLAND: Well, obviously, I want to ask you a little bit more detail about that but I want to jump over to Joe on the telephone now, and set a little context for us about the impact that the natural resources we have in Southern California have on our tourism business and how much of a draw the parks and these kinds of public spaces are for people who are making a decision about whether to visit here.
TERZI: Sure. Well, you know, it’s extremely important. Obviously, we look at San Diego, you know, as residences (sic) as being a great place to live and a vibrant outdoor activity environment, and so if you think about visitors, we get approximately 32 million visitors a year into San Diego, which has approximately 3 million residents. So 32 million people come to our – within the region every year.
MYRLAND: And, Joe, I’ve heard…
MYRLAND: …this statistic before and I – it kind of takes my breath away. That sounds like an extraordinary number of people. You know, I guess it’s sort of like cars on the road, some of them are in the garage and some of them are on the road and you never have them all at once. But it seems like a huge increase in the population just from people visiting.
TERZI: Sure. Well, if you think about it, the statistics show that we get 16 million of those 32 million that actually just come into the San Diego region for the day, so day visitors, and then another 16 million that wind up staying overnight in the destination. So very important for us to maintain what San Diego has to offer, and if you think of the most important thing, I think, the destination has to offer is the unbelievable experiences we have outdoors from the beaches to the, you know, the bay and the opportunity in all of the natural environments that San Diego offers. It’s really the underpinning of, I think, the destination, so it’s critically important that we maintain those God-given assets that we have and make sure that they stay attractive to those people that want what we have to offer.
MYRLAND: Now I want to go back to Brian and talk about the impact of some of these cuts. Clearly, you know, you’re, in a way, in the Parks business, you’re also in the hospitality business, welcoming people into your parks. What effect have some of these cuts had on your ability to provide that hospitality, if you will?
KETTERER: You know, from a – we rely on the visitor to be our constituents. When bond acts come up, when we need something, as in now, we really rely on the visitor to have a good experience and come away with state parks is something that I want to feel good about, I want to come back and enjoy. We’ve tried our best not to impact the visitor. There are reduction in services. Cleaning of restrooms don’t happen quite as often, overall cleaning, I will say. We do some sweeping and some light cleaning. But a lot of services like that have been cut back. Lifeguard service, again, you will see lifeguards on the beach but they’re going to have a longer patrol area. So and I think that’s something that San Diego City Lifeguards can discuss as well. But those are the cuts. Everything is kind of in the back. If we have a vandalism issue, we’re not going to have the parts necessary to put that facility back together necessarily or it’s going to take us longer to do that. But for the overall experience the visitor gets on the day-to-day, enjoying Torrey Pines, enjoying one of the campgrounds, I don’t think they’re going to see a whole lot of cuts up front.
MYRLAND: Now, Gavin, you started the San Diego Association for Lifeguards, is that right?
MCBRIDE: Me and a group of my coworkers.
MYRLAND: Now tell us a little bit about that just to give us some context here.
MCBRIDE: Well, when we learned that this next round of cuts were imminent, we set out to create an organization called the San Diego Association for Lifeguards, which our mission was to make sure that the public and the city management is fully aware of what we do and in an effort to preserve the level of service that we provide to the citizens and the visitors in San Diego.
MYRLAND: Now what kind of cuts are you seeing happen over the past few months or several months with lifeguard service? And help us understand, you know, normally how many lifeguards are there on duty and what area do they patrol and then what are we cutting back to here?
MCBRIDE: Well, currently we have not received cuts. The mayor is proposing – actually, he’s going to be doing a press conference today at one o’clock that’s going to propose his recommendations to close that budget deficit. Currently, San Diego Lifeguards are responsible for 27 miles of coastline. That includes Mission Bay. And we are responsible for law enforcement, medical response, and ocean rescue from the tip of Point Loma all the way up to Torrey Pines State Beach.
MYRLAND: And other than just saving drowning people there are a lot of other things that lifeguards are responsible for and maybe you can just kind of walk us through a little of that.
MCBRIDE: Well, in the coastal environment, lifeguards are oftentimes the first line of defense when it comes to issues of law enforcement, medical response and, of course, water rescue. If we receive deep cuts to our level of service then that will profoundly affect our ability to do that. You will lose your first line of response if lifeguards aren’t present when it comes to law enforcement and medical response. However, you do have fire and police to back up, so if someone calls 911, you will get that service. The major difference is, is that we are the only public safety agency that does water rescue, so if lifeguards aren’t there and somebody needs help in the water, there’s no back up, there’s no one coming.
MYRLAND: I want to jump back to Joe Terzi from the Convention and Tourism Bureau just for a minute because I remember a few years ago when San Diego had a little trouble with its reputation because of so many closed beaches. Do you worry about sort of a long term effect of budget cuts and changes sort of getting out there and people having second thoughts about visiting here rather than someplace else?
TERZI: Well, sure. We’re concerned about anything that affects the consumers’ perception of San Diego as a destination. And, you know, obviously it’s not just San Diego. Most cities in the country are struggling with the same financial challenges because of the economic climate we’re in, so we’re not alone. Obviously, California has some huge deficits it has to deal with, as the City of San Diego does but we have a – When you think about tourism, it’s really an economic engine that has about an $8 billion positive impact to the County of San Diego on an annual basis so it really is a business proposition when you think about it and anything that affects the consumers’ mindset about San Diego as a destination in a negative way will have a negative impact on our ability to produce $8 billion worth of economic impact. So it’s a real – it’s a serious issue for all of us, you know, both local residents and visitors but we don’t see the current issues having a significant impact now but we’re not sure about the future. Obviously, you know, people make decisions on where to go and what to do based on their perception of the destination and that still is a very positive issue for us in San Diego.
MYRLAND: Now, Brian, speaking of economics, let’s talk a little bit about the ability of the parks to charge admission, to get fee-for-service, and the balance between that and providing an open and accessible and welcoming environment to all the citizens.
KETTERER: Yeah. We just had a fee increase and I think we’ve reached a point of we’re at the threshold that we are offering – we’re charging more but we’re offering less in these budgetary times. And I don’t – I think we’ve reached our ceiling at this point in time for charging fees.
MYRLAND: Give me an idea of what some of those fees might be and how much it costs a family of four to visit the park.
KETTERER: A family of four for a day use at the park is going to cost you $10.00 to park at most of our state parks. To visit Torrey Pines, again, $10.00 to enjoy a nice day on the beach or a hike in the Torrey Pines Reserve area.
MYRLAND: Now certainly there are people for whom $10.00 is a big expenditure but I think for most people, certainly most people who are visiting California and most residents, that’s not a huge barrier to entry. Does it also have a positive effect? If people have to pay a little something, do they have a little more motivation to take care of their environment or to appreciate the experience?
KETTERER: I think that’s the message that I want to walk away from this talk is that everybody needs to take ownership in the parks that we have, whether they be a tourist or they be somebody that lives in the area. I don’t think $10.00 is a lot. I think it brings ownership to it. And there are certainly passes that we offer. We have that annual day use pass for those that are coming for an extended period of time that allows them to park in different parks for free if they have the pass. That’s $125.00. We have passes for senior citizens that assist them. But I do think there’s – a monetary value creates an ownership in the parks that we have. The misconception that a lot of people have is I paid ten bucks at Torrey Pines, there’s a lot of vehicles in there, why are the services being diminished and why are you crying wolf? Well, the truth of the matter is those revenues go back into the general fund of the State of California. We don’t keep those revenues in San Diego. And that’s one of the misconceptions that we have.
MYRLAND: Do – I’m sure you’ve run these calculations. Do eventually – does the money – how much of that money comes back from the general fund to the parks?
KETTERER: Not enough.
MYRLAND: So the parks are actually generating a profit for the state, if you will, or helping to support other services that aren’t able to charge a fee.
KETTERER: I think the way you should look at it is, it is supporting other parks that are just as important and just as valuable for the natural cultural or historical resources somewhere else in the state that can’t earn the money that we earn.
MYRLAND: I want to remind our listeners that our guests are Brian Ketterer, and he’s the person who was just speaking. He’s from the State Parks Department. We also have Gavin McBride from the San Diego Association for Lifeguards, and Joe Terzi from the Office of Convention and Tourism. And we’d sure like to hear from you if you have a comment or a question or a concern about the parks, 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-5727. Gavin, I want to turn back to you and the lifeguard question. On a typical day at the beach, how many people about, or how much area, is one lifeguard responsible for?
MCBRIDE: Well, on a annual basis, we receive an average of 22.3 million visitors to the San Diego City beaches and that includes the bays as well. Our areas of responsibility include Ocean Beach, we have South Mission Beach, which is about – the South Mission Beach area is approximately three-quarters of a mile from the South Mission tower to the Mission tower, and about another mile and a half to the Mission tower to the Pacific Beach tower. And then just on the other side of the pier is the North Pacific Beach area which runs about three-quarters of a mile. So currently our staffing levels in some of those outlying areas, we have a minimum of two person staffing. So for the South Mission Beach area and the North Pacific Beach area – and what that allows us to do is it gives one lifeguard in charge of water observation and the other lifeguard’s available to do preventive acts and respond to emergencies. And one of our major concerns is decreasing those two-person stations to one-person stations because what has to happen in that case is that if the lifeguard in the tower is by himself and he needs to respond to an emergency, he’s going to leave his area of responsibility, he’s going to take his eyes off the victim, he’s going to have to run downstairs, drive in a truck, drive to the scene of the incident, and just hope that the victim is still above the surface or hasn’t been swept away from the area. And in that instance, if that lifeguard had to go out on multiple victims, he’s – his, you know, his backup’s coming from three-quarters of a mile away. So that’s one of the major concerns that we had is keeping that minimum staffing level to the two persons because it helps ensure the safety of the victims and the lifeguards and it allows us to keep water observation when we’re responding to emergencies and doing preventative acts.
MYRLAND: Well, considering how many people are on the beach at a given time and how busy it is, it certainly doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of room to give there in terms of staffing if you’ve only got two people.
MCBRIDE: That’s correct. And, you know, in our winter months, we’re at our leanest staffing and in the past we used to have an off season and a peak season and now there’s no longer – that’s no longer the case. We’re a year round beach destination and we’re receiving a high level of visitors in the winter months as well as the summer months.
MYRLAND: Now, Brian, for less critical and highly trained kinds of activities, I heard you talking the other night on San Diego Week about using volunteers in the parks, and I wonder if we could explore that a little bit more.
KETTERER: I think what we have right now, this climate that we have, budgetary and otherwise, economically, there’s a call from government agencies, especially beloved agencies like the Department of Parks & Recreation, San Diego Lifeguard Service, those agencies, to call on volunteers. And I think people are willing to do that. There is a strong love and support as we found out recently when the governor said he wanted to close state parks, there’s a huge and profound love from our constituents that want to keep parks open. And I think we need to look at how we do business and how we approach our volunteers when they want to help. And I honestly think a turn in how we do our business practices with sponsorships, partnerships and volunteers is something that we have to look at over the course of the next few years.
MYRLAND: What are some of the opportunities that you see for volunteers to serve? What are some of the things that people can do? The one that jumps to my mind is, just because my wife has participated in it some, is trail maintenance. I know that you already use a lot of volunteers to do that but what are some of the other things?
KETTERER: We have something for everybody. If you only have a few minutes on a Saturday morning that you walk the beach or you enjoy the outdoors, take seven minutes of that and pick up trash while you’re on the beach or the trail. We have three local nonprofit associations that help us immensely, not only monetarily but they help us with trail maintenance, they sit in our museum at Torrey Pines Lodge and now with the climate that we have, the business climate we have, we have roofing contractors, we have excellent in painting – Barry Campbell came to us and said I want to help you and I want to beautify an area of Tamarack State Beach. He’s taking the time to repaint an entire restroom with donated paints and materials that would’ve cost us labor of up to $3500 and enough materials to be about $4500 and he’s taken that all on his own with the help of some local surfers. And I think everything, like I said before, is on the table.
MYRLAND: Well, I want to explore both the volunteer opportunities and the needs in the parks. I think most of us visit a park but we don’t really understand the infrastructure or the activities and I want to take a little time to help our listeners understand that, and I want to take some time to hear from our listeners at 1-888-895-5727. But we’re going to be taking a break and then we’ll be back, speaking with Brian Ketterer from California State Parks Department, Gavin McBride from the San Diego Association of Lifeguards, and Joe Terzi, CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. But we’ll be back right after this break.
MYRLAND: These Days in San Diego. I’m Doug Myrland, sitting in for Maureen Cavanaugh. We’re talking about parks and specifically budget cuts therein. And we have a lot of folks who want to participate in the conversation. We appreciate your telephone calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s start with Julie in Imperial Beach. Julie, welcome to the program.
JULIE (Caller, Imperial Beach): Hi, yes, thank you. I just wanted to comment about the idea of using volunteers. I work in the nonprofit industry and we rely heavily on volunteer support and they are endeared to us as part of the staff. But there is, sort of in our field there is a concern that replacing volunteers with positions that were previously paid can be quite tricky. And I think it’s important for people to understand that we don’t have the capacity. I believe it was Yahoo that was found, through litigation, they had laid off a bunch of people in the early nineties and then through their business model had replaced those positions with volunteers, they were sued and this is not acceptable anymore. And so it presents – I mean, it presents an even greater challenge to us in these difficult times. And I just wanted to make that comment and see if anyone had heard the same thing and if they’re facing the same challenges in their institutions.
MYRLAND: Well, thanks a lot, Julie, and, Brian, I think – I think Brian does have something to say about that.
KETTERER: I do. Yeah, we have the same constraints. We have unions and we have employees that matter to us and they have their same requirements and we can be sued for taking away jobs from current paid employees, and there is a fine line we walk with that. We don’t want people working on our sewer systems that aren’t trained or contracted by us. We don’t want people doing hazardous cleanup jobs that we have people and personnel that are trained for. But when I say there are something for everyone, whether you have five minutes to spend, whether you have a need or help – or, not a need or help, but you have some time that you can take, we have a associations, nonprofits that are set up that are legal that do things for our parks not only in San Diego but all over the state that are willing to take your assistance and willing to work with you to find something that you can do.
MYRLAND: Well, I think being a – there are some obvious things that are completely inappropriate for volunteers. We were talking in the break about lifeguards. You certainly don’t want a volunteer as a lifeguard; you want someone who’s been highly trained and responsible and a professional to do that. And so I think sorting out the appropriateness is a challenge for the administration but I think the message here is that there’s plenty of work to go around.
KETTERER: Absolutely, and Gavin and I talked before the interview, both of us have had huge cuts in our public outreach for lifeguard service and public safety, and there’s an avenue I think that as simple somebody answering the phones and taking an active role in that, it’s very simple. It doesn’t have to be a lifeguard necessarily that goes out and says you need to swim near a lifeguard, you need to call 911 if you’re in trouble. And the lifeguards or the public safety whatever entity it is is there to help you.
MCBRIDE: Yeah, uh…
MYRLAND: Well, speaking of lifeguards, we have Mike in Oceanside joining us. Mike?
MIKE (Caller, Oceanside): Hey, how you doing?
MYRLAND: Good. So you had a comment for us.
MIKE: I’ve been working in the district here since 1986 and I know that the morale out there right now is not very good for the state park lifeguards. We have a really tough job right now and it’s just made tougher by the budget cuts. I know Brian is doing the best he can with the budget that he has but I just wanted to let you guys know that we’re covering a lot more space and the pressure on the lifeguards to be really sharp out there is really high, and the morale plus the budget cuts and all of the less – we have a lot less pay and a lot less hours and that’s hurting morale as well.
MYRLAND: Well, Mike, we…
MIKE: So I don’t…
MYRLAND: …we appreciate you making that comment and maybe, Gavin, you might have something to add to that.
KETTERER: I – Go ahead.
MCBRIDE: Oh. Well, yeah, I mean, knowing that the future is uncertain definitely has an affect on morale.
MCBRIDE: I am confident, though, that our city leaders recognize that public safety’s important and lifeguards are important and, you know, our own mayor is a former police officer and he’s someone who’s worked in the field in public safety, so I’m confident that they’ll make decisions that will help continue to safeguard the public of San Diego.
MYRLAND: One thing we mentioned earlier in the conversation was – or that Brian mentioned, were the possibility of extra revenue through sponsorships. And Lee in El Cajon has some thoughts about that. Lee? Please join us.
LEE (Caller, El Cajon): Well, hi there.
LEE: You know, I just couldn’t help but think immediately about the possibility of corporate sponsorship. It seems to be pervasive from sports stadiums to even schools nowadays so why not beaches?
MYRLAND: Brian, what’s – or Gavin, how do you guys feel about that? And what kind of steps could you take to make that happen?
MCBRIDE: Well, some of the ideas that we’ve generated is allowing advertising on some of our lifeguard towers, on our trash cans, and soliciting corporate partnerships to help us subsidize some of our uniform expenses, and see if we can get corporate partner up – I’m sorry, corporations to donate a portion of our uniforms so that’s something that – some ideas that we’ve generated to help offset some of these deficits and, hopefully, we’ll be able to work with the council and the mayor’s office to make that happen.
KETTERER: I think there’s a very fine line. Again, when you talk about your visitation and your constituents, I think there’s a fine line you walk. We are just now getting into talks and trying to move forward with what is acceptable and what’s not. Lifeguard towers, the beaches are all great places, people want to advertise on there. How far do we want to take it? LA County, if you look at their beaches, lifeguard towers, trash cans, down to your shower that you’re utilizing has some form of advertisement.
MYRLAND: I think this is an opportunity to bring Joe Terzi from the Convention and Visitors Bureau into the conversation because I’m sure you’ve given some thought to, you know, everybody wants more revenue and more corporate sponsorship but there’s also an esthetic that has to do with where the line needs to be drawn with too much advertising. What do you think about this in general?
TERZI: Sure. I want to make a comment about volunteerism, if I can, just to…
TERZI: …as a good example. We run a visitors center actually in La Jolla and downtown across from the Midway. And actually the principle means of supporting that visitors center is through all volunteers, so we have 70 volunteers that actually volunteer hundreds of hours a year, actually, some of them in working with and supporting the visitor industry in San Diego. So it is possible to do that and it’s been a very successful activity for us because we couldn’t have done that with their existing staffing, and if we had to pay for 70 individual employees to do that we wouldn’t have been able to provide that service. So there is a model that works from a volunteerism standpoint. I know it doesn’t work for everyone but there are people out there that are willing to contribute because they have a desire to and they love their home and they love dealing with things that are positive about San Diego, so that being said, on advertising and marketing, it’s very interesting in today’s world. We struggle with this all the time in terms of our own messaging is that how much of a commercial message do you want to put out there regardless of what the issue is? And we’re talking about advertising on websites and things of that nature that can be very lucrative but you don’t want to take it to the extreme where, in fact, it becomes an advertising vehicle versus the principle means of what it’s there for. But I don’t really see a challenge in maybe approaching the opportunity to do that because, you know, frankly, if you have no other choices, you have to look at everything that makes sense for, you know, maintaining services or maintaining, you know, the presence that you really need to have to be successful. But I also think you have to do it in moderation and have some kind of guidelines that you’re going to use so whatever you’re going to do is acceptable to the community.
MYRLAND: Well, I want to thank you for that comment and, of course, you know, we’re here on Public Radio and Public Radio faces the same kind of questions, you know, you want to get as much money from as many corporate supporters as you can but you want to maintain that uncluttered environment but sometimes the balance is reached because the sponsors themselves don’t want to be in a too – they value the uncluttered environment and the fact that their message is in a subtle and appropriate way. So there are probably ways to approach this. But there are longer term solutions, you know, they don’t solve your budget problem today or tomorrow. It seems to me that the volunteers may be a more immediate sort of solution.
KETTERER: Correct. Volunteerism, I think the track that we’re on in San Diego with state parks, yeah, we are stressed. Every employee that I have is stressed. But it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come and come together to make it work for the overall visitor enjoyment and satisfaction. That’s the initial key, is to make sure that we have the constituents on the back end of this economic crisis that we have, on the back end our visitors are still there, our constituents are still there, still loving what the lifeguards do, whether it be city or state, still loving what the Park Ranger stands for and still loving the parks that they want to come and enjoy.
MYRLAND: I want to turn now to Maria in Chula Vista who has a question for us. Maria, welcome to the program.
MARIA (Caller, Chula Vista): Hi. Yes, I was enjoying the conversation that you were having because I have son who’s ten years old and I was looking for somewhere he can volunteer, him and myself. I went to Chula Vista Animal Shelter and they told me he had to be about 15, 16 years old before he could go so I would just love to find out where we can actually volunteer because I think it would help him to know his city better and to get involved with the public and with, you know, just with the city itself to learn about different nice places that there is in San Diego to visit.
MYRLAND: Okay, Maria. Well, Brian, are there any opportunities for children and parents to work together?
KETTERER: I do not manage the Silver Strand area but I do know that Loews Coronado Bay Resort is a active participant with that park. They have a lot of beach cleanups and other interpretive programs that deal with the environment and help you volunteer inside the park area. There is a calendar for San Diego County for volunteerism with – throughout the county so if you’re looking for something with a government agency or a nonprofit that needs your help for replanting or cleaning up or doing something like that, that is also available on the web. If you’re looking far-reaching into the north county, Torrey Pines Association or Torrey Pines Docent Society both can be found on the web. Or you can call my office, it’s 760-720-7001.
MYRLAND: And, Brian, I want to jump back to sort of a bigger picture question as we come to the end of the topic here. When you talk about making cutbacks in parks, are there certain parts of parks, certain activities that are more vulnerable than others? Are there things that you sacrifice in a temporary basis? I’m thinking do you close part of the park? Do you shut off some of the roads? Do you just not maintain access to some? Ones that don’t get as many visitors get closed down? How do you sort of look at those compromises?
KETTERER: I think you’re seeing all of the above. San Pasqual Battlefield, which is out near Wild Animal Park, is one of those. That’s a park that the governor says you can’t close but it is going to be closed Monday through Friday. The big key for us, interpretation is a big thing, public outreach and education, that’s the first thing that you always see go, which is a shame but that’s the easiest one to cut because it provides a public outreach but it doesn’t provide a service to the visitors requiring on a day-to-day basis. You’ll see that and public safety as well. A lot of our parks, Palomar, again, I don’t manage that park, but they are on a seasonal closure. On the beachfront, we’ve done this for the last four or five years, we close half our restrooms on the beach area and that way we don’t have to service them as regularly. That saves us quite a bit of money.
MYRLAND: But that’s certainly frustrating for people to hike a couple of blocks to a restroom and discover that it’s locked.
KETTERER: And that’s the balance. And we’re not closing all the restrooms in one location. We’re trying to cut back where we can, where we have those accommodation facilities. You lock one restroom, and you keep two open. And, again, it comes down to a time saving – how much money am I saving in that 30 minutes that it would take an employee to clean that restroom? But what am I doing on the back end, how am I hurting the visitor? And that’s the balance that we make every day.
MYRLAND: And then there must be long term maintenance issues that you have to deal with as well.
KETTERER: My fear as a manager, and this is strictly from my office alone, is our deferred maintenance is skyrocketing in the millions of dollars, and this budgetary setback that we have and it looks to continue throughout the next year, that is only going to increase our deferred maintenance which means our facility infrastructure. Sewer systems will not get the work they need. Lift stations will not get the work they need. New restrooms that are – that need to be serviced and managed will not be built. Lifeguard headquarters that have been there since the 1950s will have to remain for another five to six years. Those are the things that I – that keep me awake at night, is what are we going to do as the economy gets better and make up the difference in this deferred maintenance that we’ve put off for years and years because we just haven’t had the funding.
MYRLAND: Well, I want to go back one more time to Joe Terzi, and ask you, Joe, with all of the various challenges that we all face in this current economy, what are you guys doing as far as getting the word out to people around the country that San Diego’s still a great place to visit?
TERZI: Sure. We have worked very hard over the last number of years to do that. We compete nationally and internationally with a lot of great destinations. But fortunately for us in San Diego, we’re blessed with a destination that has so many great natural attributes that, you know, it’s not very hard to promote San Diego when it’s 76 degrees in December and to the rest of the world or the rest of the country that’s suffering from, you know, snow and frigid weather. I mean, it’s pretty easy to do that. And we’re fortunate to have the beaches, we’re fortunate to have the natural environment plus a vibrant hotel community and arts and cultural community and attraction community, so we’re very blessed but it’s very competitive out there when you think about what’s happening economically around the country. All destinations are working very hard to attract a smaller, you know, their piece of pie out of a smaller pie. So we spend – This last summer, I’ll give you a good example, we spent almost $10 million in advertising to the Southern California, Arizona and Las Vegas area to make sure we had those visitors that are absolutely critical to San Diego in the summertime, which is our key travel period. And we were very successful in maintaining occupancies in the city and tracking those visitors that had options to go to other places that were probably as attractive because they were a little bit less expensive than San Diego tends to be in prime time. So we’re working really hard to get out the message to continue to…
TERZI: …to, you know, from an advertising standpoint, show San Diego in a very positive way.
MYRLAND: Well, Joe, I appreciate that and it’s kind of nice to wrap up our conversation on a positive note. And, Brian, with Joe working hard to bring lots of visitors, you’re not going to lack for customers in the parks. We really appreciate that, and at ten bucks for parking, it’s still a bargain. So we really appreciate you being here, Brian Ketterer from the State Parks Department, Gavin McBride from the San Diego Association for Lifeguards, and Joe Terzi from the Convention and Visitors Bureau. For These Days in San Diego, I’m Doug Myrland.
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