Another summer has come and gone for Avila Beach. This season stands out for being Matt Ashton’s first summer serving as Harbor Patrol Chief.
“It went great!” said Chief Ashton.
Probably the biggest challenge that the Harbor Patrol faced was dealing with the parking meter machines. This summer the San Luis Port Harbor District (SLPHD) added new restrictions to parking in Avila. The lot’s parking meters now require patrons to enter their vehicle’s license plate numbers. In the past, people leaving the lot would often give their parking pass to those arriving and though it is a Good Samaritan action, it was costing the SLPHD much-needed funds.
“It turns out we were losing a lot of money and that money goes directly to the maintenance and preservation of the beaches,” said Chief Ashton, “Making that change, we made a pretty substantial increase in revenue.”
Only comparing the weekend of Aug. 4-6 2016 with its 2017 counterpart, Chief Ashton reported that that the SLPHD saw an increase of $3,000. That’s a lot of clams. It’s also important to note that the Harbor Patrol does not police the parking in Avila and therefore does not garner any funds from parking tickets written.
“The parking issues that would happen on the promenade or the streets or the parking areas in Avila minus that parking lot,” said Chief Ashton, “would be covered by the California Highway Patrol or the Sheriff’s Department.”
There was also a slight change in the rules for dogs on the beaches. Wed, Aug. 23 the SLPHD decided to designate Fisherman’s Beach as no dogs allowed, all other beaches will remain the same though Lighthouse Beach, also known as Coast Guard Beach, will have signs posted that state “no dogs past this point,” to keep furry companions off the Point San Luis Lighthouse private property.
This summer there were also several credible shark sightings. In order for a sighting to be deemed credible, the Patrol asks the witness a series of predetermined questions.
“There are a whole slew of questions that are used to determine if it is a credible sighting or if it’s not.”
At the beginning of the summer, there was one possible fatality. Nicholas DeLoss Marold, a 35-year-old-man from Arroyo Grande went overboard 3 miles off the coast of Port San Luis and was never found as reported by KEYT. The Sheriff’s Department was not available for immediate comment on the current status of the case.
The Harbor Patrol is not at full strength yet but is making steady progress. Currently, all positions are filled and the new recruits are on their way to becoming fully trained. Also, Chief Ashton was able to add two reserve officers increasing the patrol’s manpower. The department now consists of 6 full-time officers and two reserves.
“My guys,” Chief Ashton said, “ know the right calls to make. They acted professionally and made good calls.”
In Aug., the SLPHD honored Harbor Patrol Officer Jake Vierra as Port Super Star for his exemplary service as a Harbor Patrol officer.
-By Mark A. Diaz