Responsible Beach Events: a framework

From ActCoastal

By Amanda Winchell | Published 2015/11/30

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Commentary is provided by ActCoastal partners.

This blog represents the views of the authors, and does not necessarily reflect the positions of ActCoastal and its partner organizations.


Copyright: Brocken Inaglory

The Surfrider Foundation was founded by and is made up of people that love the coast – the beaches, ocean, and waves. Thus Surfrider understands and supports time spent along the coast and in the water, whether for some solo time or with a group of like-minded beach-lovers. A primary function of Surfrider is preserving citizens’ right of access.

An inherent responsibility of enjoying our coastal resources is protecting it. This boils down to being a conscientious beach visitor. Surfrider understands the importance of balancing beach access with ecological integrity and enhancing wave-riding opportunities in ways that will not adversely impact nearshore ecosystems.

This balance can sometimes be hard to find – as shown recently with the Maverick’s surf contest application for a Coastal Development Permit at the November Coastal Commission hearing. Why were the surrounding beaches and bluffs being closed to the public? Why the heavy access restrictions? It’s a surf contest, an event utilizing the amazing natural resources that the City of Half Moon Bay has to offer; people should have free access. The conflicting issue, though, was not only the safety of the increasingly sizable crowds of people that have been pushing onto the beaches and bluffs to view the event, but also the environmentally sensitive habitat that the bluffs are home to.

The large number of spectators that the event draws has had a growing detrimental impact on the habitat of Half Moon Bay’s Pillar Point Bluffs: seemingly uncontrollable trampling and trash. So, restrictions were put in place to mitigate – as much as possible – the footprint of the event on the local habitat.

This is why Surfrider is calling for responsible and ocean-minded beach events and setting forth the following principles:

Event Principles

Environmental (Coastal Habitat) Events should minimize all potential impact to coastal habitat. This can be achieved by: -Having specific areas for event equipment, development (structures), and patrons. -Minimizing watercraft used in the intertidal/littoral zone. -Providing or working in support with local entities to provide offsite options for viewing events such as competitions. -Responding quickly to address any negative impacts to the surrounding environment. If needed, restore the area to the condition it was prior to the event should any damage occur.

Waste -Recycling of materials used. -Minimal waste generation (i.e., follow a zero waste policy). -Responsible disposal and pickup of all materials.

Energy -Use renewable energy sources to the extent practical. -Consider purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs) when use of renewable energy is not an option. -Assess opportunities to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency of event operations as well as goods and services associated with the event.

Transportation -Support alternative transportation options (carpooling, public transit, biking, skateboarding, walking). -Work to ensure accessibility of event.

Procurement -If possible, buy local/use local services. -Purchase products made of post-consumer fiber/materials. -Work towards reduced use of packaging (in collaboration with suppliers). -Reduce as much as possible the use or distribution of products and/or services that could cause environmental damage, or potentially pose a health or safety hazard.

Community -Work cooperatively with local residents and decision-makers to ensure maximized coastal access for all persons. -There should be community support for the event (local nonprofit organizations, local government, local businesses are in support). -Inform local residents if they will be impacted by the operation of the event and collaborate with community members to mitigate any impacts.

Public Access -Maintain public access to the beach, ocean, and related amenities (e.g., parking, showers) to the full extent possible without endangering local habitat.

These proposed principles for responsible beach events are formulated using the Surfrider Foundation’s organizational principles, the Ceres principles, and concepts from Sustainable Surf’s Deep Blue Surfing Event Program. For additional reading, also check out Beachapedia’s article on Low Impact Surf Contests.