LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — It’s one of the most beautiful — yet saddest days in Laguna Beach for Locals for Laguna Beach founder Jason Garza as he watches the waves roll in on a desolate shoreline outside the Surf and Sand Resort.
“Immaculate conditions and not a soul in sight," Garza said.
Jason runs a website that’s a hub for Laguna Beach locals and business owners, and is with his friend James Pribram — a former pro surfer and founder of the Eco Warrior Foundation that is dedicated to cleaning beaches.
The pair is checking out the scene, that includes the oil-capturing vessel in the distance.
“Hopefully in the next couple of days, we stay in this weather pattern of calm waters, calm wind and they can get the oil boom out and around the oil and contain it before it hits our shores," Pribram said.
That anticipation of oil reaching the shore is why Laguna Beach closed its beaches until further notice — a necessary but unfavorable move for this ocean-dwelling community that serves both residents and visitors who flock to the city for its beaches.
“Most of us spend some time in the water on a daily basis, whether it’s surfing or scuba diving or paddle boarding, et cetera, and all of that has been called off immediately," Garza said.
Laguna Beach’s entire coastline is designated as a marine protected area.
The guys take me to Shaw’s Cove where I meet marine biologist Nancy Caruso.
“There’s dolphins feeding out there," Caruso said.
Caruso, along with 5,000 kids and 350 volunteer divers, worked for 12 years to restore the kelp forests that had been gone for over 20 years and overrun by sea urchins.
“There are many people in our community who are literally and personally tied and have a personal stake in the health of this ecosystem which is home to more than 800 species of animals," Caruso said.
Her fear is that the oil will arrive to this area and damage the ecosystem the community helped to restore.
Oil sticks to surface areas, and kelp that provides food for so many species would be in danger.
“We can’t remove all of the rocks and all of the algae, and all of the tiny periwinkle snails that are in the tide pools. Unfortunately, everything that’s going to get coated, is going to not make it," Caruso said.
While Jason and James walk around downtown Laguna Beach they’re reminded of their community that relies on beaches being open.
“Whatever percentage that created for that business, that’s now nil right?” Garza asked.
But it’s the feeling of being helpless that’s the hardest, wanting to volunteer but not able to as the oil spill’s impact is still unfolding.
“We’ve been forbidden to, until the local authorities say it’s okay to, just due to the hazards of it all," Garza said.
So the only thing to do is wait and hope the booms capture enough oil to spare Laguna Beach’s coastal ecosystem.