Limitations on beach bonfires enforced come May

Carmel: a place famously known for its beautiful beaches and fine oceanfront properties, now underway of enforcing a law that will limit one of the city’s greatest aspects.

Few things on the Monterey Peninsula can beat the joy of Carmel Beach during the day, but next to nothing can beat the freedom of staying by the water afterhours and sitting by a nice fire alongside your favorite people once the sun goes down.

Sadly, the days of bonfire freedom are numbered, due to the city of Carmel debating whether beach fires should even be allowed any longer.

For residents of Carmel, and even for the many out-of-towners and visitors, the beaches serve as places of gathering and good times. During the day, one can enjoy walks along the perfectly white sands, brisk swims in the refreshing ocean, time with the family and time with friends.

The old fire policies were simple and agreeable, consisting of keeping fires 3-by-3-by-3 feet, keeping them more than 25 feet from the slopes and having them extinguished with water by 10 p.m., as stated by Carmel Municipal Code 8.56.085.

These rules are now part of the past, as the city is introducing a new policy with “fire rings” to be put in 26 different areas to keep Carmel Beach healthy and clean.

According to Carmel city council member Carrie Theis, the most popular reason for the switch to fire rings is keeping the smoke levels at a minimum to protect air quality and keeping the sand white.

“The fire rings would be devices that prevent the fires [from being] built directly on the sand,” Theis explains. “Also limiting the number of fires rings to 26 lessens the impact of the smoke to the surrounding area.”

Angered locals complain that the fire rings will create more of an eyesore than burnt charcoal. But no matter: The year-long experiment will begin as planned starting this May.

Among the many in disagreement with the new rules, Carmel High junior Jess Plinck has some negative thoughts on the situation.

“I personally don’t agree with the decision,” the concerned junior says. “People will take all of the rings before my friends and I get a chance.”

Not surprisingly, there are those on the other end of the spectrum who believe the rules to be in good taste and worth giving a shot. CHS junior Harrison Whitaker sees the impending restrictions as beneficial, and he says they will cut back on air pollution and make the beaches safer to walk across.

The vice mayor of Carmel, Victoria Beach, says this experiment is an attempt to find a solution on which all residents can agree.

“I think at some point it feels better to have a resolution to the discussion and not just have it go on and on, Beach observes. “We’d like to experiment and find more data and just find out what works for everybody.”

Though the fire rings will be a major change for Carmel, other beaches around California are already practicing the use of this regulation. The beaches enforcing fire rings aren’t just small, unknown spots along the ocean, but rather well-known event sites, including Laguna Beach, Pismo Beach and Newport Beach.

The beach ring experiment may take some getting used to for locals, but the intent is to look out for the health of Carmel’s beaches as well as the city’s air quality.
-Lennie Rodriguez